Select Page

What Is Parental Alienation or Manipulation?

by | Jan 21, 2020 | divorce, Family Law Attorney, News and Events

Parental alienation, or parental manipulation, is all too common in high-conflict divorces or child custody battles. Unfortunately, it’s also devastating and can cause an irreparable breakdown of parent-child relationships. Here’s what you need to know about parental alienation and what your legal options are if you believe your child’s other parent is manipulating them to alienate you.

Divorce Attorney Consultation

Parental Alienation Defined

Parental alienation is often used as a blanket term for psychopathological manifestations seen in children involved in contentious divorces or separations. However, the definition of parental alienation is more specific and refers to a child’s unjustified rejection of one parent, usually caused by the conscious or subconscious manipulation of the child’s emotions and viewpoint by the favored parent.

Why Does One Parent Manipulate a Child to Alienate the Other?

The drive to manipulate a child to reject one parent and not the other can stem from a wide variety of causes, such as:

  • The desire to get revenge. Your child’s other parent may want to “get back at you” for ending the relationship and may see your child as an easy way to hurt you.
  • Jealousy over a new partner. The other parent may be angry or jealous if you’ve become involved in a new relationship and may try to break you and your partner up using your child to come in between you.
  • Your ex may want alimony or to divide your assets a certain way and may be holding your child as an “emotional hostage” until you meet their demands.
  • Untreated mental illness. Having a mental illness or personality disorder does not in and of itself mean that a parent will inherently manipulate their child. However, when mental illness is unrealized or untreated, the symptoms of these disorders can reflect in unhealthy parent-child relationship dynamics which may include parental manipulation.

The Effects of Parental Manipulation on Children

A child’s inherent desire — and a critical developmental need — is to love and be loved by both parents. When one parent manipulates a child to alienate the other, the child is often negatively impacted. The effects of parental alienation on children include:

  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Self-hatred and internalized guilt
  • Substance abuse
  • Complex post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Difficulty in school
  • Difficulty eating or sleeping
  • Changes in mood or behavior

Warning Signs of Parental Alienation in a Divorce

Signs that your child’s other parent may be attempting to manipulate them into alienating you include but aren’t limited to:

  • Your child displays heightened aggression or apathy toward you with no known provocation.
  • Your child displays a sense of entitlement to toys, games, or other items of interest. They may also attempt to manipulate you to buy these items by threatening to tell the favored parent or end the parent-child relationship with you.
  • Your ex begins to deny visitation requests or otherwise tries to limit your contact with your child.
  • Your child requests that you no longer attend school-related or extracurricular functions, e.g. asking that only the favored parent attend school conferences or ball games. You may also find that you have been removed as an authorized contact on your child’s school records without your knowledge or agreement.
  • Your child doesn’t seem to remember any good times you previously shared together.
  • Your child begins to echo criticisms similar to what you’ve heard the other parent say to or about you.
  • Your child suddenly seems afraid of you.
  • Your child assumes responsibility for your rejection and does not “betray” the favored parent. Any parental manipulation that your child is aware of may be kept secret in an effort to protect the preferred parent.

Is Your Child Beginning to Alienate You? Contact a Long Island Family Lawyer Today

If you suspect that your child is alienating you due to influence or manipulation by the other parent, it’s critical that you take action as soon as possible. It’s in your child’s best interests to maintain a healthy, loving relationship with both parents whenever possible, and being subjected to the psychological abuse of parental manipulation can seriously impact your child’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Contact the experienced Long Island family lawyers Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. today for a consultation to learn about your legal rights. Call now at 631-923-1910.



Call 631-923-1910 or fill in the form below

Schedule your complimentary consultation and case evaluation with our experienced attorneys today. When you call, you’ll speak to our friendly Client Services Director, who will be able to answer your general questions and set up your appointment with an attorney who specializes in your unique case.

At your meeting, your attorney will describe the many options available and determine together which is the right solution for you. By the end of this meeting we’ll all understand how we can best help you to move forward.

No Cost or Obligation

There is no cost or obligation for this initial consultation. It is simply an opportunity for us to get to know each other, answer your questions and learn if Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. is right the right law firm for you. Give us a call at 631-923-1910 or fill in the short form below to schedule your free consultation and case evaluation.

All Fields Are Required


Divorce Lawyer Long Island New York



Everett Roberts
Everett Roberts
14:30 18 Mar 20
Going through a divorce was very challenging and emotional. Searching for an attorney can be challenging as well when you consider everything that is at stake. The choice I made to work with Rob Hornberger was surely the best choice available. His professionalism, expertise, and understanding made him and the entire team perfectly suited to achieve the outcomes I desired. Rob was always available to answer my questions and give me advice and legal considerations that affected my situation. The support I received from his staff was exemplary as well. The staff was courteous, kind, and also very professional. Thank you so much Rob and team for a worry free experience.
Annemarie Cusumano
Annemarie Cusumano
21:41 17 Mar 20
Being in family court especially when your children are on the line is extremely emotional and stressful but working with Robert and Christine put me at ease and made the process as pleasant as a situation like that can be. I have a now 3 year old daughter (who is the most important person in my life) and I've been working with them for over two years since my daughter was 7 months old, the case has been up and down and through it all Rob and Christine have never given up. My original case was due to a neglect charge. Cps is not easy to work with, but Rob and Christine were vigilant and I ended up getting my daughter back within 8 months and did not have to plead guilty to the neglect. Currently I am in family court to figure out a custody agreement. They are professional, empathetic, and patient. They have always explained everything thoroughly, informed me of all my options and advised me of what my best option would be. They always respond quickly when I contact them with questions or concerns and most importantly they fight for me in court and don't give up even when things get rough. Before hiring Rob and Christine I met with other attorneys who did not make me feel confident or comfortable at all about my case, so I am very grateful to have found Rob and Christine and to be represented by such great attorneys. I highly recommend them for any family court matters and will definitely continue to use them in the future if needed.
Steven Frierman
Steven Frierman
02:25 07 Mar 20
After meeting with 3 different lawyers, we felt Robert understood us best and he genuinely had our best interests at heart. This helped us resolve a few minor issues in a timely fashion and make a potentially stressful situation go more smoothly.Thank you
Randi Gottlieb
Randi Gottlieb
18:47 03 Mar 20
Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. - Mr. Robert Hornberger and his staff are beyond professional, they quickly gave me my consultation appointment, and helped me with an after-Divorce issue. Mr. Hornberger was empathetic and explained to me what I should expect. Mr. Hornberger was extremely professional and advised me of my options, he helped me proceed with accurate and smart decisions. I wish I had Mr. Hornberger and his highly recommended staff when I was getting divorced. I would highly recommend Robert and his staff to anyone who is getting a divorce or in need of help with situations after the divorce!
Rob Spielmann
Rob Spielmann
22:15 27 Feb 20
They made our process so easy. They were there to answer and help with any questions that came up. Very friendly


  • I have known Robert for more than 8 eight years. Robert has represented many of my family and friends. Each and every one has raved about Robert’s professionalism and expertise. He is knowledgable, friendly and truly cares about his clients. I would not hesitate to continue to refer Robert and his firm in the future!
  • I’ve known Robert for most of my life, and feel very fortunate that I have been able to turn to a good friend for various kinds of legal advice. He is very intelligent, straight forward, and professional. Most importantly though, Robert always finds the fastest resolution, and will not waste your time or money. He is NOT in the habit of dragging things through litigation if there is no need for the added expense. I have referred a few of my friends to Robert, and they have all been more than satisfied in their experience with him. Highly recommend!!



divorce questions answered



Long Island Divorce Guide

* indicates required


Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., P.C. respects your right to privacy. We will never sell your information to any third party. Follow this link to read our full privacy policy.


Child Support & Spousal Maintenance Tools
Spousal Maintenance Calculator
Child Support Calculator

Pin It on Pinterest