Texas divorce settlements frequently address child support, visitation and custody parameters. But conflicts can, and do, arise after both parties sign on the dotted line. For example, when families separate, parental alienation, which researchers have called “a serious form of family violence,” may rear its ugly head.
What constitutes parental alienation
Divorce stirs emotions, and it’s not uncommon for parents to bad-mouth each other during and after the process. However, when disparagement evolves from an ill-advised and easily forgotten comment to a calculated campaign aimed at poisoning a child’s mind about a parent, it’s called “parental alienation.” In extreme cases, formal intervention may be necessary.
Signs of parental alienation
Parental alienation is personal, and every situation is different. However, common tactics include:
- Blocking phone calls
- Frequently threatening legal action in front of the child
- Keeping one parent out of the loop
- Moving out of state without discussion or warning
- Bad-mouthing the targeted parent
When negotiating child custody and visitation — child support, visitation schedules, et cetera, it’s wise to consider whether parental alienation may become an issue. If so, you may want to include an appropriate provision in the custody agreement.
Is parental alienation illegal?
According to the letter of the law, parental alienation isn’t a crime in and of itself. However, tactics used to cement parental alienation may be. For example, defamation charges may apply if one parent falsely accuses the other of abuse or neglect.
Sometimes, custody agreements forbid either party from engaging in parental alienation. Violating such a provision could also have consequences.
Dealing with parental alienation can be challenging, and consulting with a family law attorney may help alleviate the situation. When things get out of hand, understanding your legal rights can sometimes steady the proverbial ship.