Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Concise Explanation

As Roswell divorce lawyers, we have seen many courts cracking down on parents who criticize, bad-mouth, disrespect, or simply insult the other parent. Now, it might be natural to want to vent your frustrations about the other parent who is doing something they shouldn't be doing or not doing something they should be doing. And divorce, family law, and child custody situations, among others, can be very stressful and stir-up all sorts of negative emotions. But beware: A big trend in Georgia family courts today is recognizing “parental alienation” and addressing it with a heavy hand.

While there isn't any formal statute explicitly for parental alienation, many Georgia courts, attorneys, and Guardians ad litem are treating parental alienation very seriously and it could cost you custody of your child if the judge finds that you have alienated your child(ren) from the other parent. See Petry v. Romo, 249 Ga App. 99 (2001).

What is Parental Alienation?

There is a broad spectrum of alienation, however. It can be taking steps to restrict the other parent's access to the child and/or convincing/brainwashing the child that the other parent is bad, doesn't love them, etc. Maybe criticism that the other parent drinks too much, does drugs, is addicted to Internet porn, is dumb, etc.

Studies have shown that this can seriously impact the child's mental wellbeing. The child could be scared and feel in danger. Some have even labeled “Parental Alienation Syndrome” a form of emotional child abuse. It can cause feelings of anger, anxiety, and depression in the affected child. Psychologists, therapists, and psychiatrists have warned of the long-term mental health effects of “Parental Alienation Syndrome.”

How to address Parental Alienation?

  • Document, document, document everything! Being able to prove alienation is tough. Having all communication in writing or on video with the other party is important to show a pattern of behavior.
  • Counseling for everyone involved is very important. Having someone that can help the child(ren) work through their emotions and foster a positive, healthy relationship with both parents, especially the targeted parent can be very effective.
  • Stay consistent and patient. Just because the other parent isn't letting you see your child(ren), doesn't mean you should stop trying. Again, document your efforts. If the child is exhibiting alienation syndrome and is refusing to visit, stay patient and calm. Remember that consistently showing-up and trying to maintain the relationship will be important to getting past this difficult phase.
  • Seek help from an attorney. An experienced family law attorney will be able to recommend experts, therapists, and other professionals and will also be able to present your parental alienation claim to the court. This is where your documentation will be extremely important.

The best interests of the child & "Parental Alienation Syndrome"

Georgia statute § 19-9-3 (N) states: “In determining the best interests of the child, the judge may consider any relevant factor including, but not limited to: The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child.”

Georgia courts have repeatedly stated that it is in the best interest of the child for the parents to work together, co-parent, and encourage healthy relationships with the other parent. “Parental Alienation Syndrome” goes completely against this desire for a workable and reasonable co-parent relationship. When “Parental Alienation Syndrome” exists, the child or children lose. And if you're a parent who the court finds has alienated the other parent from the child, you risk paying a heavy price for it!  

For all your family law and divorce needs, attorneys Valerie Sherman & Bill Sherman are here for you! Just call us at (678) 712-8561 for a case evaluation. We proudly serve the entire Atlanta metro area.

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