Parental Alienation – How Much Can the Courts Handle?

In the simplest terms, parental alienation is a disturbance of a child’s affections toward one parent wherein the child will often view one parent as the “bad” parent and one parent as the “good”parent. A range of behaviors can manifest, in the form of psychological, emotional and physical. The effects on the family unit can be mild, moderate to severe. Parental alienation does not happen overnight. It results from a gradual and consistent manipulation and is directly related to the time spent with the alienating parent. It is imperative that both parents, the Court, teachers and other professionals working with the child be educated to recognize the signs, both subtle and direct.Reversal of alienation requires swift intervention and most importantly, time with the “victim” parent.

Divorce is very difficult for children, even if it takes place between cooperating parents. Parental alienation occurring in a divorce process is a tornado of destruction to the family unit. Reversal often requires proof (which can be difficult particularly at the onset of alienation), the help of a mental health professional with experience in parental alienation, direct and immediate court intervention, extensive court orders detailing visitation specifics and a clear and established court-appointed enforcement procedure and cooperation by all those involved with the child.

The alienating parent is angry and difficult and can be described as desperate, obsessed andmentally disturbed. In addition, this parent often will not comply with court orders or obey the commands of mental health professionals. This leads to chronic litigation in Court and ties up the financial resources of the parents.

Budget cuts in Florida have put a tremendous strain on an already over burdened judicial system.Contested divorce cases are taking much longer (as long as two years or more) to bring to a full resolution. The days of getting an expedited hearing to address a complex issue such as parental alienation are long gone, not to mention obtaining the extensive court order needed to begin reversingthe affects of parental alienation. In addition, cases involving parental alienation often require thorough and consistent follow-up in Court to monitor the progress. The Florida Courts simply do not have thetime and resources to fulfill the “victim” parent’s immediate need.

Enforcement of the “victim” parent’s rights is the next hurdle. Schools are reluctant to get involved. Law enforcement is not prepared to deal with it nor do they want to. This contributes to the alienating parent continuing the manipulation. The “victim” parent is left with little options in seeking compliance to court orders and getting time with their child.

In many states, “victim” parents have been forced to take their case to appellate and supreme courts in order to re-establish timesharing with their child and enforce basic parental rights. Lower courts often ignored the red flags of parental alienation and assumed the mentality that the alienating parent was the best choice for the child because the child had spent a majority of the time with that parent. Higher courts are just beginning to recognize that this rewards the alienating parent’s action sand non-compliance. Reversal of the lower courts decisions on these cases is recent and will be monumental for the future of “victim” parents in re-establishing the parent-child relationship.  For more information specific to the issue of parental alienation, please CLICK HERE.

In 2007, Governor Charlie Crist announced April 25th as Parental Alienation Awareness Day; however generally people do not have an understanding of parental alienation until it happens to them.

The Governor endorsed the group PAAD (Parental Alienation Awareness Organization), which educates and aides alienated parents.
Unfortunately, it isn’t enough. There is no protocol for dealing with cases involving parentalalienation. Therapists, judges, attorneys, teachers, law enforcement and the parents themselves are notfully educated on the issues involved and steps toward successful resolution. The “victim” parent facesa long road with many obstacles that can also lead to financial destruction. The devastating reality isthat the buck stops here.

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