Tuesday, April 19, 2011


In divorce or separation, 10% - 15% of children express strong resistance to spending time with one of their parents – and this may be increasing in our society. It may be the father or mother. It may be the parent the child “visits,” or the parent where the child lives. Is this the result of abuse by the “rejected” parent? Or is this the result of alienation by the “favored” parent?

The idea that one parent can alienate a child against the other has been a big controversy in family courts over the past 20 years, with the conclusion that there are many possible causes for this resistance. Most courts take reports of alienation very seriously and want to know if this is the result of abuse or alienating behavior. Resistance to spending time with a parent is always a serious problem. This needs to be investigated, fully understood, and treated with counseling in many cases. Otherwise, the child’s future relationships may be much more difficult.

IS THIS THE RESULT OF ABUSE? The first concern of the courts is protecting the children. If there are reports of child abuse as the cause of the child’s alienated behavior, the judge may make a protective order restraining contact with the “rejected” parent, such as a temporary order for supervised visitation. If you are the “rejected” parent you may feel that supervised visitation is unnecessary or insulting. Yet this may be your biggest help, as someone neutral can observe the child’s behavior and your relationship.

Often the judge will say that he or she will not make any assumptions and wants more information before understanding the cause.

1 comment:

jaykayesq said...

In 25 years, I've seen some kids resist visiting a parent who is a drunk who acts out emotionally. But the age/s of the children sometimes has an intense impact.
I've also seen some moms fight affording reasonable contact with a child as though she thought the father would kidnap the child. Those have tended to be young, and unmarried.
(too much, "Jerry Springer" and "Divorce Court" on TV, I suspect.)
I'm now representing a child whose mother appears to be demanding loyalty from her daughter = but not from her sons = so intensely that my client, a 5th grader, doesn't seem to be able to keep track of her own feelings about visits with father.
Another client = a 2 year old = has a mom nearly obsessed with terror that the father will - or has - inflicted visually minor injuries. The judge didn't buy it, largely because she extrapolated to sexual abuse. Very odd. And sad.
What's going on here?