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DuPage County divorce lawyer for parental alienationDivorcing or divorced spouses are not typically on great terms with each other. While some divorces are relatively amicable, other divorce cases are filled with hostility and revenge-seeking behavior. Sadly, children are often the ones who get hurt in extremely contentious divorces. Sometimes, a parent even intentionally attempts to turn a child against the other parent. This is known as parental alienation, and it can happen when an adult uses brainwashing and other manipulative strategies to damage the child’s relationship with their parent. If you have been a victim of parental alienation, you should know that you have certain rights under Illinois law. The alienation may even be cause for restriction of the other parent’s parental responsibilities or parenting time.

Types of Parental Alienation

Parental alienation is a controversial subject. However, the phenomenon is very real. The term was conceived in 1985 to describe undue influence on a child that causes the child to fear or despise his or her parent. Some experts have suggested that parental alienation can cause an actual psychological disorder called Parental Alienation Syndrome, but this disorder is not listed in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual or recognized by the American Psychological Association. Nevertheless, there have been many documented cases in which a parent or other party willfully attempts to destroy the parent-child relationship, and these types of actions can have a direct impact on child custody issues.

Parental alienation may include actions such as:

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Wheaton child custody attorney for parental alienationIdeally, unmarried and divorcing parents would place their children’s well-being above their own angry or vengeful feelings toward their ex. Unfortunately, the pain of a divorce or breakup can sometimes make parents lose sight of what is really important. Some parents even attempt to influence or coach their children to dislike the other parent. Whether this influence is intentional or unintentional, the results can be extremely harmful to both the children and the other parent. “Parental alienation” occurs when a parent manipulates a child in such a way that the child begins to feel fearful or hostile toward the other parent. It is possible that parental alienation can have a substantial effect on child custody.

What Actions May Be Considered Parental Alienation?

Romantic partners or spouses who have ended their relationship will often harbor some degree of bitterness or spite. However, it is important for parents to avoid letting their feelings toward their ex influence the relationship between their ex and their shared children. If a parent disparages the other parent to the point that it begins to break down the relationship between the child and the other parent, this may be considered parental alienation. Parental alienation may involve:

  • Refusing to inform the other parent about the child’s school or extracurricular activities

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Family violence and abuse are not a new issue in divorce cases. Many parents have had to fight to protect their children from a violent spouse. In contrast, parental alienation is a new concept in family court. However, some experts say the issue has been around as long as divorce (if not longer). Still, other psychologists believe parental alienation is nothing more than a clever defense for abusive parents - a way for them to control and punish an already beaten-down spouse. Sometimes, the latter is correct, but determining whether a case is a matter of family violence or parental alienation is rarely easy.

Parental Alienation as a Defense for Abuse

It is true that there are documented cases in which parental alienation was used as a defense strategy for an abusive parent. Retaliation and control are often the game, and the individuals who play it know how to win. They use every strategy possible. They hire bulldog attorneys that demonize an abuse victim. They propose family reunification camps that, to date, lack any evidence of efficacy. Some even issue threats to the child to encourage them to play along.

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Every child deserves a healthy and loving relationship with both of their parents. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. In some cases, it is because one parent truly is a danger to the child, but in others, it is a situation brought on because a parent manipulates the child to pit them against the other parent. This latter issue, which is otherwise known as parental alienation, is often called a form of brainwashing by child experts - but is it also a form of abuse? The following explores further.

The Many Colors of Abuse

Abuse is most often thought of in the physical sense, but there are many other forms. One can be sexually abused, emotionally abused, or psychologically abused. Parental alienation - if considered a form of abuse - would be emotional and psychological abuse. This is because parental alienation attacks a child's emotional attachment to a parent, and it alters the way the child thinks and feels about their parent.

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Once upon a time, allegations of child abuse in family court cases were generally taken at face value. As a result, the alleged abusive parent was blocked off from their children, either through supervised visitation or through complete loss of parental rights. Then along came the concept of parental alienation - a situation in which one parent brainwashes the child and pits them against the other. It had been going on for years, and quickly became more recognized.

Today, it muddies the decision of whether allegations of abuse are real, or a well-crafted tactic to punish the other parent. Judges struggle to decide which is which. Some err on the side of caution. Others are skeptical when it comes to allegations of abuse. That can make outcomes of family law cases difficult to predict and, in some situations, could put a child at risk or punish an innocent parent. If you are going through divorce and have concerns over your child's safety, the following information can help you better understand what parental alienation is, and how it may affect your case.

What is Parental Alienation?

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