The California family courts presume that children benefit most when both parents are involved in their lives. While many parents embrace this philosophy, unfortunately some parents attempt to alienate the children from the other parent.
If you believe your children’s other parent is turning your children against you, or if you are accused of parental alienation, a court has the power to reverse the child custody arrangements. Proving parental alienation is difficult, since the court takes such allegations seriously and will need a high level of certainty before issuing a finding of parental alienation. The San Francisco lawyers of Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., have experience with this important issue, representing parents on both sides of such accusations.
What Constitutes Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a psychological condition resulting from one parent’s extreme and persistent efforts to prevent the children from having a meaningful relationship with the other parent. It may stem from a child’s constant exposure to negative talk – whether it is true or false, public or private, including allegations of abuse – from one parent about the other, or from one parent’s repetitive interference with custody or visitation.
The conduct rises to parental alienation at the point that children no longer wish to be around the other parent. For example, the child suddenly is reluctant to talk to Dad on the phone or expresses anxiety about the upcoming visitation with Mom.
Psychological Evaluations And Judicial Remedies
Depending on the stage of the legal process, the nature of the allegations, the age of the child, and various other factors, the court will order a full custody evaluation or a limited scope evaluation. A psychologist will interview both parents, the child, and any witnesses, and will examine any correspondence between the parents (e.g., emails, text messages, and voicemail messages), to ascertain whether the accused parent is maligning the other to an actionably detrimental degree.
Upon a parental alienation finding, the court can order counseling for the parent who has alienated the children and can order the parent to stop engaging in conduct that undermines the parent-child relationship. For egregious alienation, or for repeat offenses, the judge can take custody away from the alienating parent, awarding sole custody to the aggrieved parent.
Allegations of parental alienation often surface in the initial custody dispute. Viewing these disputes through the lens of the children’s best interests, courts look to see whether any given parent will foster communication, cooperation, and compromise in raising children with the other parent. It is crucial to be as civil as possible in all dealings with your estranged partner/spouse, and to refrain from speaking negatively about the other parent in front of the kids.
“After my first attorney bungled my custody case I searched for months for someone willing to take on a challenging case, and someone who had all of the qualities I wanted in an attorney. I had almost given up on finding such a person until I met with Debra. She fulfilled the fantasy – smart, strategic, empathetic (being a parent herself), knowledgeable, hardworking, professional, friendly, a good communicator, unfailing fair, and funny to boot. Who could ask for more?”
— Anonymous client testimonial
Discuss Your Concerns In A Confidential Consultation
Debra R. Schoenberg and her associates practice exclusively in family law, including custody disputes. They draw on decades of collective experience to assert and protect your parental rights in these tense and high-stakes court proceedings.
Contact us to schedule a consultation with our San Francisco attorneys about parental alienation.