Parental Alienation: Warning Signs

December 19, 2022 | By Michelle L. Ringel

The courts presume it is in a child’s best interest to enjoy substantial and meaningful parenting time with both parents on a consistent basis absent any evidence of abuse, neglect, or other concerning factors. Therefore, the courts are proponents of parents co-parenting and remaining active and involved in a child’s life even after a separation or divorce.

Unfortunately, custody battles can be incredibly emotional and difficult for all family members. Children sadly are often the victims of such contentious custody litigations. Some parents will do anything to “win” by engaging in damaging and destructive behaviors, even if it is at the expense of a child. Often in these cases, a parent will manipulate a child into believing negative ideas about the other parent and intentionally drive a wedge between the other parent and the child. This is known as parental alienation.

Some parents do not notice the signs of parental alienation until it is too late. Here are some red flags to look out for if you suspect your former partner is engaging in parental alienation:

  • Your child resists parenting time with you. Younger children may throw tantrums and cry at parenting time exchanges and older children may suddenly claim they “do no want to go” or “schedule” other plans.
  • Your child refuses to acknowledge the good times you previously shared and views almost everything about you and your relationship in a negative light.
  • Your child is parroting the other parent and/or saying phrases that are above his/her maturity level.
  • Your child rejects anyone associated with you such as your parents, siblings, friends, significant other, or children from your new relationship.
  • Your child believes he/she cannot bring certain items to your residence from the other parent’s house because the items can only be used at the other household.
  • Your child believes you caused pain and suffering to the other parent and ruined their life.
  • Your child does not respond to text messages, telephone/FaceTime calls, and other forms of communication when it is the other parent’s parenting time.
  • Your child does not acknowledge you at his/her events such as a soccer game or school performance when the other parent is also present.
  • Your child does not gift you something he/she made in school because the other parent said it should go to someone else associated to him/her.
  • You are excluded from important information about your child’s health, education, well-being and the like.
  • Your child is aware of the specifics occurring in your divorce litigation.

If you believe your former partner is brainwashing your child to turn your child against you, you should contact a family lawyer with experience in handling these cases to determine the appropriate strategy and course of action. You also should compile the following:

  1. The dates/times you attempted to enjoy parenting time with the children.
  2. The dates/times you attempted to contact your child telephonically and/or electronically via text message, Skype, or FaceTime.
  3. The dates/times you attended your child’s activities/functions to show your love and support.
  4. Copies of all text messages, emails, and other forms of communication with your child and ex-partner that demonstrate some of the above red flags.
  5. Pictures of you and your child enjoying activities, events, holidays, and meaningful time together.
  6. Any social media posts which may allude to acts of parental alienation.

Parental alienation can be incredibly harmful to your child and your relationship with your child. It should not be taken lightly. A custody lawyer can help guide you through the process of proving parental alienation and repairing your relationship with your child.

The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys. 

About the Authors

Michelle Ringel - Mount Laurel family law mediation

Michelle L. Ringel


Mount Laurel Family Law Mediation Michelle focuses her practice on all aspects of family law including but not limited to family law mediation, divorce, equitable distribution, child support, alimony/spousal support, premarital agreements,...

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