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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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Wheaton child custody lawyerApproximately one out of every five adults in the United States suffers from a mental illness. Anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and borderline personality disorder are some of the most common mental health problems in the United States. Although many people suffering from mental health issues are fully capable of being safe, loving parents, mental illness can influence child custody cases. In some situations, parents involved in a dispute about parental responsibilities or parenting time are required to undergo a mental health evaluation or psychological examination.

When Are Psychological Evaluations Required?

Illinois courts make all child custody decisions based on the child’s best interests. If the court has reason to believe that a parent’s mental health condition may pose a risk to the child, the court has the discretion to order psychological testing. If a parent believes that the other parent has psychological problems that may endanger the child, the parent can request a mental health evaluation as well. The court may approve or deny this request. Typically, if a parent requests that the other parent undergo a psychological exam, the parent who made the request is responsible for paying the fees associated with the exam.

What Happens During a Mental Health Examination?

During a mental health assessment, a qualified psychological evaluator such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker conducts an evaluation of a parent’s mental status and overall mental health. This process typically involves an interview during which the evaluator asks the parent questions about his or her mental health history as well as his or her thoughts, feelings, and actions. During the assessment, the evaluator may measure the parent’s cognitive skills, memory, and ability to think clearly. The evaluator may also gather information by observing the parent’s behavior. In some cases, psychological testing is used to determine whether or not a parent meets the diagnostic criteria for a certain mental illness. The results of the mental health evaluation will be used by the court in conjunction with other evidence during child custody determinations.

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Wheaton family law attorney for parenting plan enforcementIn Illinois, divorcing couples with children and unmarried parents who do not live together are asked to create a “parenting plan” that addresses the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) and other issues related to the couple’s children. This plan will describe each parent’s rights and responsibilities and include information about how parenting time, sometimes referred to as visitation, will be divided between the two parents. The parents may decide on the terms of their parenting plan through negotiation, mediation, or collaborative law. If parents cannot reach an agreement about one or more terms, the court will order a plan that is based on the child’s best interests. Whether a parenting plan is the result of an agreement between the spouses or an allocation judgment handed down by the court, parents are expected to follow the plan.

Parents Must Comply With the Terms of the Parenting Plan

Parenting plans typically involve a number of different provisions, including those describing each parent’s responsibilities and the time that each parent will spend with the child. The plan may also include information about the child’s education, extracurricular activities, healthcare, religious or cultural upbringing, and how the child will be transported between the parents’ homes. 

One of the most common ways that parents may violate the terms of their parenting plan is by deviating from the parenting time schedule. Understandably, parents may sometimes need to make minor changes to their schedules to account for illnesses, unexpected work obligations, or other special circumstances. However, if a parent consistently fails to fulfill his or her parenting time obligations or refuses to allow the other parent to enjoy his or her parenting time, legal action may be necessary to enforce the terms of the parenting plan.

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