When you told your children that you and their other parent were planning to divorce, you may have been met with any number of emotional responses, ranging from complete non-surprise and resignation to shock, fear or anger. In fact, it's not at all uncommon for Washington children whose parents are divorcing to experience any or all of these emotions throughout the process. Hopefully, you were able to alleviate most of your children's worries and took steps to start planning a new, successful future together.
Since then, you may have noticed your children suddenly growing distant from you or resisting your authority. How do you know if they're merely going through a phase as they learn to adapt to their new lifestyle or whether another party (perhaps their other parent) is plotting to pit them against you?
Parental alienation can be a real problem
If the thought has crossed your mind that your former spouse is trying to turn your children against you, it may not be just a thought. Many parents have gone through similar experiences in the past; in fact, some have had to go back to court to rectify their situations. The following includes information and signs that may alert you to a potential problem in your own life:
- If someone makes you aware that your former spouse speaks negatively about you in front of your children, you may want to further investigate the matter. This is often one of the first steps a parent attempting to get children to reject the other parent will take.
- Chances of parental alienation schemes are higher in situations of high-conflict divorces. Can you and your former spouse barely exist in the same room without wanting to rip each other's hair out? If so, and you notice one or more of the other signs on this list, you may have an alienation problem on your hands.
- Passive aggressiveness is often a sign of a parental alienation attempt. If your children's other parent verbally expresses a desire to see your children strengthening their bonds with you, but acts in a manner that suggests he or she feels threatened by your relationship with your kids, you have definite cause to reach out for support to resolve the situation. A parent may also slip in negative comments or actions to thwart the bond of the other parent.
Especially if your children are normally very close to you and you suddenly notice changes in their attitudes and demeanors or if they act distant or angry or rebellious, and you believe there might be more to it than natural emotions regarding your divorce, you may want to address the matter head-on before things get out of hand.
Many Washington parents turn to their family law attorneys for help in resolving parental alienation situations. Sometimes, such matters can be handled out of court; at other times, litigation may be necessary.