Parental Alienation is a complex issue that can have a profound impact on families and children during and after divorce or separation. While Florida does not recognize “parental alienation syndrome” as it is an unproven concept, Florida courts do consider the impact of alienating behaviors. The courts put the children’s best interests first and can recognize parental alienation conduct as a serious concern that affects the relationships between children and their
parents. In this post, we will explore what constitutes Parental Alienation under Florida law, its
legal consequences, how to prove it, report it, and best practices for navigating and preventing
this troubling phenomenon.
What Is Parental Alienation?
Parental Alienation refers to a strategy in which one parent engages in intentional behavior or actions negatively aimed at the other parent for unjustified negativity intended to undermine, damage or sever the child’s relationship with the other parent. It is NOT estrangement due to the other parent’s actual conduct including abuse, verbal, emotional or physical. Parental alienation’s purpose is to turn the child’s emotions against that other parent. These actions can include negative comments, false accusations, interference with visitation, or any behavior that manipulates the child’s perception of the targeted parent.
In Florida, Parental Alienation may be viewed as psychologically damaging or harmful by disrupting relationships with parents. It is often associated with high-conflict divorces
or separations and can lead to long-lasting emotional and psychological consequences for the
child. Similarly, the false accusations of Parental Alienation can be damaging and cause harm to the relationships with both parents and are often expensive to both parties in Florida courts.
Parental Alienation is not explicitly addressed in the Florida Statutes as a standalone offense or legal term. However, Florida family law addresses related issues, such as child custody, visitation, and parental behavior, to protect the best interests of the child. When Parental Alienation is a concern, it may be addressed within the context of these family law provisions which include:
Florida Statute 61.13001 – Parental relocation with a child
Florida Statute 39.806 – Termination of parental rights
Florida Statute 787.03 – Interference with custody
Legal Consequences in Florida
Parental Alienation behaviors are taken seriously in Florida due to the detrimental effects it has on children and their relationships with their parents. Legal consequences may include:
- Change in Custody: If it can be proven that one parent is engaging in Parental Alienation conduct, the court may consider modifying the custody arrangement to protect the child’s well-being. The court’s primary focus is the best interests of the child.
- Supervised Visitation: In some cases, the court may order supervised visitation for the parent responsible for Parental Alienation conduct, to ensure that the child’s time with them is safe and free from manipulation.
- Contempt of Court: A parent who is found to be in contempt of court for violating court orders related to visitation, communication, or parental responsibilities may face legal consequences, including fines or even imprisonment.
- Legal Costs: The court may require the responsible parent to cover the legal costs of the other party if they have been subjected to false accusations or court proceedings related to Parental Alienation conduct.
Proving Parental Alienation
Proving Parental Alienation in a legal context can be challenging, but it is possible. The court will consider various factors to determine whether Parental Alienation has occurred. Some key elements in proving Parental Alienation include:
- Documentation: Maintaining a record of interactions, communication, and incidents related to the alienation can be valuable evidence. This may include text messages, emails, or social media interactions.
- Witness Testimonies: If there are witnesses who have observed the Parental Alienation, their testimonies can be influential in court.
- Expert Testimony: Mental health professionals, such as psychologists or therapists, can provide expert testimony regarding the impact of Parental Alienation on a child.
- Child’s Behavior: Changes in the child’s behavior, attitudes, and beliefs about a parent can indicate the presence of Parental Alienation.
Reporting Parental Alienation
Reporting Parental Alienation is essential to protect the child and the relationship with the targeted parent. If you suspect Parental Alienation is occurring, you should take the following steps:
- Document the Behavior: Keep detailed records of any behavior or actions that suggest Parental Alienation.
- Consult an Attorney: Consult with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the legal process and advise you on how to address the issue.
- Inform the Court: If you believe that the Parental Alienation is severe and putting the child at risk, you may need to inform the court and request appropriate legal action.
Best Practices for Navigating and Preventing Parental Alienation
Preventing Parental Alienation is crucial for maintaining healthy relationships within the family. Here are some best practices for both navigating and preventing Parental Alienation:
- Child’s Well-Being: Always prioritize the best interests of your child. Ensure they have access to both parents and feel loved and supported by both.
- Open Communication: Maintain open and constructive communication with your co-parent. Avoid using your child as a messenger or involving them in adult conflicts.
- Respect Court Orders: Comply with all court orders regarding visitation, communication, and parenting responsibilities. If issues arise, address them through proper legal channels.
- Seek Professional Help: If you notice signs of Parental Alienation, consult with a mental health professional who can provide guidance on improving the parent-child relationship.
- Use Mediation: Consider mediation as a way to resolve conflicts and disagreements between parents in a neutral and controlled environment.
- Get Legal Assistance: Once again, consult with an experienced family law attorney in your area to help you navigate complex legal issues, and protect your rights as a parent.
If you believe that Parental Alienation is affecting your family, it’s essential to take proactive steps to address and prevent it. The family law Attorneys at Parra Harris Law are here to help. Contact us, today. By doing so, you can protect your child’s emotional and psychological well-being, while ensuring they maintain a healthy relationship with both parents.