Parental Alienation is a phenomenon in family law where a parent manipulates or influences a child to reject the other parent, without a valid justification. In the state of Florida, this can have a significant impact on child custody (legally referred to as “Timesharing” in Florida) and visitation arrangements. It is important to understand what parental alienation is, how it is determined and the legal consequences of it, as well as what steps a parent can take if they believe the other parent is guilty of it or if you are falsely accused of parental alienation.
What is Parental Alienation in Florida?
Parental alienation refers to the act of one parent deliberately interfering with the relationship between a child and the other parent, often through negative actions and statements. This often happens as a result of one parent’s efforts to poison the child’s view of the other parent, using tactics such as badmouthing, limiting contact and/or making false accusations. This can result in the child’s love, affection and attachment to the targeted parent being lost or significantly diminished.
Determining Parental Alienation in Florida
Parental alienation can be difficult to determine, as it often involves subtle actions and behaviors that are not immediately obvious. However, there are certain signs and symptoms that can indicate parental alienation, such as:
- The child expresses a strong and unreasonable negative attitude towards the targeted parent.
- The child is not willing to spend time with the targeted parent or has limited contact with them.
- The child repeats the alienating parent’s negative opinions about the targeted parent without personal experience.
- The child has no explanation for their negative attitudes and behaviors towards the targeted parent.
- The child displays an irrational hatred towards the targeted parent.
To determine whether parental alienation is occurring, a family court in Florida may consider a variety of factors, such as the child’s relationship with each parent, the child’s demeanor and behavior, and any other relevant evidence. A comprehensive evaluation can include interviews with the child, the parents, and any other relevant parties, such as teachers, family members, and therapists. The evaluation may also include a psychological assessment of the child, which might involve psychological testing, behavioral observations, and a review of any relevant medical or educational records.
Legal Consequences of Parental Alienation in Florida
The consequences of parental alienation in Florida can be significant for the child, the targeted parent, and from a legal and punitive standpoint, the offending parent. If a family court finds that one parent is engaging in parental alienation, the court may take several steps to address the situation, such as:
- Modifying the custody arrangement to provide the targeted parent with more time with the child.
- Ordering the alienation parent to attend therapy or counseling to address their behavior
- Holding the alienation parent in contempt of court if they violate court orders related to the child’s relationship with the targeted parent.
- Imposing financial penalties against the alienation parent for their behavior.
- If the child is suffering as a result of parental alienation, the court may also consider alternative custody arrangements that would better serve the child’s best interest. This could involve granting sole custody to the targeted parent or appointing a guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent the child’s interests in the case.
What to Do if You Believe Your Child’s Other Parent is Engaging in Parental Alienation or if You are Falsely Accused of Parental Alienation
If you believe that your child’s other parent is guilty of parental alienation, or if you are falsely accused of parental alienation, it is important to take the following steps to protect your relationship with your child, and to seek legal remedies:
- Document evidence of the other parent’s behavior: Keep a written record of any negative statements or actions made by the other parent that may be evidence of parental alienation. This could include emails, text messages, or notes from any conversations or interactions with the child.
- Seek the help of a therapist or counselor: Consider seeking the help of a mental health professional who can help you and your child address the situation. This professional can also provide valuable testimony in court, if needed.
- Consider mediation: Mediation can provide a forum for both parents to discuss their concerns and try to reach a resolution that is in the best interest of the child.
- Consult a family law attorney: An experienced family law attorney can provide valuable advice and guidance on your legal rights and options, including seeking a change of custody or a restriction on the other parent’s time with the child.
- Participate in court proceedings: If the situation cannot be resolved through other means, the court may become involved. In this case, it is important to participate fully in any court proceedings and provide any relevant evidence of the other parent’s behavior.
It is important to remember that parental alienation is a complex issue that requires a thoughtful and compassionate approach. If you believe that the other parent is guilty of parental alienation, it is important to get the help you need to address the situation. Whether through mediation, counseling, or legal action there are resources available to help you and your child heal from the effects of parental alienation and build a strong, healthy relationship moving forward.
If you are in Florida and need legal assistance for a parental alienation case or any matter involving divorce, child custody, domestic abuse, or other family law matter, contact the professionals at Parra Harris. We are fully bilingual family law attorneys in Jacksonville, FL. We provide decades of helping our clients successfully navigate the sensitive and complex legal issues involved in all areas of divorce and family law. Let us help protect the rights of you and your family.