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Parental alienation | A possible byproduct of divorce

Photo of Karen Lavin

It is no secret that divorce can bring out the worst behavior in people. Even a person who has a reputation of being kind and thoughtful may turn to unscrupulous behaviors to get what he or she wants. It is when these behaviors begin to harm the children of divorce that things take a truly tragic turn. Parental alienation is one of these harmful behaviors and it can strike out of nowhere, often even to the surprise of the parent who is alienating the child.

Parental Alienation sometimes occurs during divorce or child custody cases when one parent knowingly or unknowingly sabotages the relationship between the other parent and the child. Grandparents, other relatives and even non-family members (e.g. girlfriend or boyfriend of either parent) can also engage in behaviors that could alienate a child from a parent.

Unfortunately, parental alienation is a commonly-used weapon in a parent's arsenal. It is very effective in getting the child in the middle of a legal battle to side with one parent over the other. It is also very harmful to the child and can result in low self-esteem, depression, feelings of shame and lasting trust issues. Alienation of a child can take many forms including:

-- Lying or speaking negatively about the other parent

-- Interfering with visitation

-- Undermining the normal parent-child relationship

-- Manipulation of the child by threatening to withdraw love

-- Inducing feelings of guilt in the child

It can be difficult to understand why a parent would do this to his or her child. After all, the negative effects of alienation touch not just the child but each parent as well. Illinois legislature recognizes parental alienation as a form of child abuse, which means you may have legal options if you suspect your former spouse or your co-parent of engaging in these harmful behaviors. Consult with a family law attorney to find out what you can do to protect your child.

Source: Parental Alienation Awareness Organization, "Parental Alienation | Undermining and interfering with a normal child-parent bond," accessed March 16, 2016

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