Generally, children in a divorce fare the best if their parents have a good relationship and work together to raise them. Children benefit from having the influence of and a relationship with both parents, and Florida custody law is designed to promote child-parent relationships whenever possible. Unfortunately, one parent may sometimes try to alienate the children from the other parent. If you believe that you have been the victim of parental alienation, please call an experienced family law attorney today.Child’s Best Interest
The best interest of the child is the standard that Florida courts use in custody decisions. To determine a child’s best interest, Florida courts examine several factors. One of the factors is each parent’s capability to foster a good relationship between the child and the other parent, encourage frequent contact, and honor the time-sharing schedule outlined in the parenting plan. Courts also consider each parents’ willingness to communicate with the other parent in a positive manner and to present a unified front on childrearing matters.Alienation
If one parent tries to undermine the relationship between the child and the other parent, denigrates the other parent to the child, or otherwise tries to alienate the child from the other parent, courts will consider this behavior when making a custody decision, and the alienating parent may lose custody and visitation.
Some examples of actions that may constitute parental alienation include:
- Making insulting or disparaging comments to the children about the other parent;
- Not complying with court orders regarding visitation;
- Using the child to spy on the other parent;
- Making the child feel guilty for time spent with the other parent;
- Interrogating the child about the other parent’s life; and
- Making false allegations or presenting false evidence of child abuse or neglect or of domestic violence.
These behaviors can encourage the child to withdraw from his or her other parent and can also damage a child’s relationship with other family members, including half- or step-siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.Remedies
If a parent interferes with the other parent’s custody and visitation, he or she can be found in contempt of court. The court can temporarily increase visitation with the alienated parent or can impose sanctions such as fines or community service on the alienating parent.
Parenting plans, which contain custody and visitation orders, cannot be altered unless there is a substantial change in circumstances. But parental alienation can constitute changed circumstances and warrant a reevaluation of the parenting plan.
Before a parenting plan is modified, the court may order a new child custody evaluation. A child custody evaluation is a process in which an evaluator makes recommendations to the judge regarding a custody arrangement. The evaluator conducts interviews, spends time with the parents and child, and may conduct psychological examinations. He or she summarizes the findings in a report to the court and makes recommendations about timesharing and custody. If one parent is found to be alienating the other parent, then it may be in the best interests of the child for the child to spend more time with the other parent.
Parental alienation is a serious problem and can have devastating effects on family relationships. If you believe that your child’s other parent is hurting your relationship with your child, please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein to discuss your case.