No matter what passes between parents in a separation or divorce, the preservation of the parent-child bond is critical for the short- and long-term wellbeing of the kids. That’s why parental alienation in New Jersey is actionable in family court under provisions of NJ Rev. Stat. § 9:2-4, outlining that per public policy, minor children are assured frequent and continuing contact with both parents.
Our longtime Monmouth County divorce lawyers know that attempts to undermine the parental bond of one’s former spouse are age-old, vindictive and deeply destructive to families, sometimes resulting in a child’s rejecting a parent for reasons that are false, exaggerated or illogical.
According to a recent study published by social psychologists in the Journal of Family Violence, an estimated 22 million adults and 4 million children in America have been victimized by parental alienation. Nearly half of moderately-to-severely-alienated parents contemplated suicide in the last year. Nearly 60 percent said these actions had resulted in a deterioration of their relationships with their kids. Parents and children in these cases reported symptoms or actual diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Further, an equal percentage of mothers and fathers engaged in this form of aggression during divorce and separation, but their tactics varied. Mothers, the researchers said, tended to lean on parental alienation strategies that were “indirect” while fathers were more “direct.”
How Researchers Analyzed Forms of Parental Alienation
Researchers compiled data from a series of extensive parental interviews and family law appellate court rulings wherein parental alienation was confirmed.
Direct aggression can include:
- One parent lashing out at another during child pick-up/drop-off times;
- Blocking parenting time with the other parent;
- Sending hostile texts or emails to the other parent;
- Blocking or changing one’s phone number so the other parent can’t reach the child;
- Making important decisions about a child in violation of court orders or in direct opposition to the other parent’s wishes.
Indirect aggression can include:
- Badmouthing the other parent to the child;
- Using false claims to spur police action against the other parent;
- Attempting to turn family or friends against the other parent;
- Telling children details of divorce court/child custody proceedings;
- Yelling at the other parent in front of the child;
- Listing a stepparent as the biological parent on school or doctor forms.
The social psychologists say it is imperative for lawmakers, judges, teachers and doctors to recognize parental alienation as a form of both child abuse and intimate partner violence. The intent is to cause harm, and that’s exactly what it does - having long-term negative consequences for the psychological health and well-being of both children and adults.
Children in these situations may refuse to spend time with their parent, be fearful when told they must visit, blame one parent over the other for financial situations or always take one parent’s side over the other when arguments arise. They become aggressively rebellious, make false accusations or pull away when they were once close.
Proving Parental Alienation in New Jersey
Parental alienation is toxic, and it can make for very strenuous child custody proceedings. The sooner you act the better because the longer it continues, the more deteriorated the parent-child relationship may become.
That said, it may not be easy to prove parental alienation. Not all judges believe it is a real thing and tying a child’s feelings and attitudes to the actions of one parent can be difficult. If the situation is not severe (but has the potential to escalate), it may be worth talking with Monmouth County family law attorney about a collaborative approach, possibly mediation. Having a neutral third party to act as a referee can help families adjust to all the changes and emotional upheaval.
However, if the other parent is actively interfering with parenting time and custody rights, it may be necessary to pursue intervention from the court. Remedies may include:
- Alterations in transportation arrangements;
- Changing drop-off/pickup locations/times;
- Compensatory parenting time;
- Changing the primary residence of the child.
Courts might also order the person perpetuating parental alienation to pay the other’s attorney fees and court costs, attend counseling or pay for the child’s counseling.
To learn more about parental alienation in New Jersey, contact Rozin | Golinder Law today at (732) 810-0034.