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Detecting and Dealing With Parental Alienation Syndrome

Divorce has many ramifications, especially for children. They are extremely perceptive, and despite attempts to conceal as many of the ugly details about the divorce from them as possible, children often notice. In some cases, children adopt the attitude of one parent and become hostile to the other, causing something called parental alienation syndrome or "PAS."

PAS is a term that was coined in the 1980s by Psychiatrist Richard Gardner to describe a psychological disorder in children with separated parents. While this condition has a variety of contributing factors, it is usually the result of one parent indoctrinating their child to despise the other parent. PAS is common in child custody battles and contested divorces.

Parental alienation can be simply defined as any parent's willful attempt to alienate their children from the other parent. Consider the following examples:

  • Despite your many attempts to contact or visit your child, the custodial parent refuses to answer your calls.
  • The custodial parent is falsely alleging physical or sexual abuse.
  • The custodial parent tells their children that you don't love them anymore and do not wish to see them.

The aforementioned examples are more extreme forms of parental alienation. Many attempts at alienation are often more subtle. For example, before sending a child to his or her noncustodial parent's house, the custodial parent says something like "If you want to come home, call me anytime and I will come get you." Statements like this paint the custodial parent's home the safe place, and the non-custodial parent's house as foreign and scary.

You may not even be aware of the custodial parent's attempts to alienate your children from you, but there are other ways to detect that this is happening, such as:

  • Your relationship with your children is becoming cold and distant.
  • Your children are afraid of you.
  • Your children are angry with you.

Many psychologists suggest that PAS is primarily fear-driven. By tapping into a child's fear, the custodial parent hopes to get their children on "their side" by making the noncustodial parent someone to be afraid of or despise.

PAS is widely accepted as a consequence of many highly contested divorce and custody cases, but what can be done about it? If you are concerned that your child might be the victim of PAS, contact a family lawyer at our firm. An attorney can request a psychiatrist to evaluate the child to determine if PAS is happening. Cases of PAS should absolutely be reported to a family law judge.

If your child has PAS and you believe it is not in their best interests to stay with their custodial parent, contact a St. Louis family law attorney at The Buxner Law Firm today.