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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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Even with the recent changes to Illinois' allocation of parental responsibility, there are still areas that remain fairly grey. If, for example, an older child wishes to spend more time with one parent, will his or her wishes be taken into consideration in a custody case? And, if so, how much weight is given to that preference? If you are the parent of a teen in an upcoming divorce case, understand these elements of parental time allocation and how it may apply to your situation.

Child's Wishes - One of Many Factors

While some states may allow children to make a fairly definitive decision about which parent they would rather live with, Illinois has attempted to alleviate parental battles and family strife by taking a more family-centered approach to the allocation of parenting time. Essentially, this means that the child's wishes are just one of many factors that are considered when a judge determines how long each parent will spend with the child. Other factors that are often considered include:

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