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What is Parental Alienation & Are You a Victim?

parental alienation divorce lawyer long islandAll too often in divorces on Long Island, one spouse attempts to influence the child or children of the marriage against the other spouse/parent. Often, this is a result of anger and resentment at the former spouse, who then tries to use the children against the other out of revenge. While divorce is often an emotionally charged event, there is no excuse for using your innocent children as weapons or pawns in your own childish vendetta against a person you once loved.

These situations, which as a practicing Long Island divorce attorney, we see too often, are referred to in legal circles as “Parental Alienation”, and can include things such as:
• Speaking badly about you directly to the children
• Speaking badly about you to relatives who in turn relay these messages to your child
• Making allegations of physical or emotional abuse against you
• Prohibiting the child from speaking about you or anything concerning you in a positive way

It is not uncommon for those involved in a romantic relationship to act out of emotion, and at times those negative emotions toward the former spouse can be purposely or inadvertently directed at the children.

Even if you have no direct knowledge of the actions of your former spouse, you may notice that your child is unable to maintain as close of a loving relationship with you as you had prior to your divorce. This could be a sign of Parental Alienation.

Long Island, NY Laws Affecting Parental Alienation?
If you feel that your situation may potentially be an instance of parental alienation, you should immediately contact your divorce lawyer for advice. This is a complex area of law but there is a possibility that your case may rest upon Section 241 of New York’s Domestic Relations Law. This statute references only the non-custodial parent in instances where the custodial parent interferes with the relationship, but does not discuss what the result may be if you feel the non-custodial parent is interfering with your relationship with your child.

You Could Lose Your Child Support & Maintenance
Under Section 241, a non-custodial parent is permitted to suspend child support or maintenance payments if a judge finds that the custodial parent receiving these payments wrongfully interfered with or withheld the court ordered visitation of the non-custodial parent. Additionally, if the judge determines such is warranted, he may order a complete cancellation of the child support or maintenance payments. Parental alienation however cannot be used as a defense by the non-custodial parent for failure to pay child support.

The non-custodial parent may only suspend payments if it is so ordered by a judge in court. If you feel you are the victim of parental alienation, be sure to discuss your legal options with your divorce attorney, who will inevitably be able to give you the best guidance.

How to Prevent Yourself from Committing Parental Alienation?
Assuming that you love your children and do not want to do them any emotional harm, the worst part about parental alienation is that you may not even recognize the fact that you are doing it. If you fear you may be doing this unconsciously, it may be beneficial to you to focus on supporting your child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent. We’re not saying you have to sing your former spouse’s praises every minute, but you could encourage the children to spend more time with your former spouse doing activities they both enjoy.

You May Note Even Realize You’re Doing It
It is important that you be aware of what you say about your ex and be careful not to make stray remarks about your former spouse that have the potential to be interpreted negatively by a child. A common example of such a statement might be instructing your child to ask your former spouse to pay for something for the child because he or she has more money. While to you that is a seemingly harmless statement of fact, a child will see such a sentence as requiring him or her to make a choice between his two parents.

If You’re Doing It On Purpose; Stop
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the parents who actively and consciously try to destroy the relationship their former spouse has with his or her children. This type of alienation stems from extreme anger on behalf of the parent directed toward the other. The parent may seek revenge for an affair or other betrayal of trust (whether real or imagined), and use the child’s love as the bargaining chip. Most important to preventing this type of alienation is to recognize it before the child comes to favor one parent over the other. Afterward, it will be necessary to work on the relationship between the child and the former spouse in order to rebuild the trust and emotion.

Are You the Victim of Parental Alienation? We Can Help

If you feel you are a victim of Parental Alienation, you should take action to protect your children and their relationship with you. Give the experienced and compassionate Divorce Attorneys at Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. a call today at 631-923-1910 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and what you can do about it. We’re here to help.