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What is parental alienation?

On Behalf of | Jan 6, 2021 | Divorce |

A divorce may become contentious, especially when dealing with money and child custody issues. If one spouse is particularly angry about the split, it may wind up spilling over into post-divorce life and the care of children.

Parental alienation is becoming an issue that too many parents may face. After a divorce, some children become the vehicles used by one parent to hurt the other. Learn more about how parental manipulation may lead to a fractured relationship.

Best interests of the children

Under Virginia law, the best interests of the children are paramount in a divorce proceeding. The fundamental belief is that an equally positive relationship with both parents is best. Unless there is good cause to go against this, most family law judges will rule that shared legal and physical custody benefits children. If one parent starts trying to taint the children’s relationship with the other parent, the court may decide that the perpetrator is guilty of parental alienation.

Components of parental alienation

Parental alienation is not a new phenomenon. It involves psychological manipulation in influencing a child to turn against the other parent. It is a gradual process and usually involves the main custodial parent or the one who spends the most time with the children, doing things such as:

  • Making off-handed negative comments about the other parent
  • Encouraging and supporting a child’s desire to forego visitation
  • Casting the other parent in a villainous light and victimizing the child

The younger the child, the easier the manipulation. Over time, the child may believe he or she genuinely has negative feelings about the other parent without realizing their primary caretaker planted the seeds.

Parental alienation may shatter relationships between children and parents. It may also cause life-long psychological repercussions and influence every relationship children have as they grow.


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