Parental Alienation in Modern-Day Divorce

Parental alienation is a controversial diagnosis but a common concern in modern-day divorce. Psychology and legal professions disagree on using the term Parental Alienation. Still, both fields recognize the harm that parents can do to one another and their children in a high-conflict divorce.

What is parental alienation, and why is it so controversial? According to Wikipedia, parental alienation “describes a process through which a child becomes estranged from a parent due to the psychological manipulation of another parent. The child’s estrangement may manifest itself as fear, disrespect, or hostility toward the distant parent and may extend to additional relatives or parties.”

The controversy involves whether this action is a form of child abuse, family violence, or a criminal act. It should not be used as a formal diagnosis and may not be allowable in a legal court battle. However, it is useful to know the behavioral characteristics of a parent or child to navigate this painful reality of modern-day divorce.

“The theory of parental alienation has been asserted within legal proceedings as a basis for awarding custody to a parent who alleges estrangement, or to modify custody in favor of that parent. Courts have generally rejected parental alienation as a valid scientific theory. Still, some courts have allowed the concept to be argued as relevant to determining the child’s best interest when making a custody determination. Legal professionals recognize that alienating behaviors are common in child custody cases, but are cautious about accepting the concept of parental alienation.” (Wikipedia)

Parental alienation places the child in a “loyalty bind” where they must choose between parents. To resolve this inner conflict, they will start to prefer one parent over the other. They may refuse to go with the non-preferred parents when it is their time for custody, and they may make false claims or accusations against the non-preferred parent.

One reason for alienation and loyalty binds is to view what is in the “best interest” from a legal vs. a psychological perspective. From a legal view, child custody is determined by “who the child belongs to” vs. a psychological view of “who belongs to the child.”

This is not merely semantics. Many people could belong to the child’s emotional security. The legal viewpoint is rigid and creates one winner and multiple losers in the custody situation.

In high-conflict divorce situations where alienation may occur, all family members can engage professional support and guidance. Family therapists and mediators can be essential to reduce estrangement and manipulation and set a straightforward course of behaviors to prevent harm to children and their parents.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_alienation#:~:text=Parental%20alienation%20describes%20a%20process,to%20additional%20relatives%20or%20parties.

Is Parent Coaching Right For You?

A parent coach is a professional who helps parents cultivate better relationships with their children. A coach provides insight, education, and direction that is concrete and practical. Although similar to therapy, coaching focuses more on short-term plans than processing emotions or working through past traumas. It doesn’t mean that parent coaching can’t provide this type of processing, but it is not its primary focus. 

Parenting coaches help in a variety of ways: 

  1. Behavioral problems help parents find strength-based ways to address children’s challenges, such as sibling rivalry, defiance, talking back, aggression, running away, meltdowns, and more. 
  2. Parenting self-care, managing adult stressors, and find balance in work, family, and social life. 
  3. Cope with transitions and crises that occur in life and the world. With all of its effects on schooling, work, and isolation, our current pandemic is a common crisis all parents must learn to manage.  
  4. Developmental and emotional concerns in children need expert insight and detailed plans when depression, anxiety, or delays present themselves. 

Any family structure can utilize parent coaching. The traditional family of yesterday is the nontraditional of today. It can include two parents families, divorced parents, single parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, foster and adoptive parenting, same-sex parents, and multigenerational families. 

Coaches typically have a master’s degree or higher in education or family counseling or completed a parent coaching certification. They should have experience in the specific area of specialty, such as aggressive teenagers or adoption. 

Coaching sessions are usually briefer than traditional therapy with 1 to 5 sessions. Each session has a specific outcome with homework to test “in the field” and then feedback and further revision until a parent feels change is happening. 

Ron Huxley is a licensed marriage and family therapist with 30 years of experience in parenting, family therapy, and specialized clinical issues, such as anxiety and trauma. He has served as the director of several clinical programs that utilized a coaching model. He is the author of the book “Love and Limits: Achieving a Balance in Parenting” and founder of the FamilyHealer.tv online school. You can set up a coaching or therapy appointment with him now. Just click here to schedule a time.

Ron also provides online and in-person training on a variety of parent, anxiety, and trauma-informed issues. Click here for more training information.

NEW Coaching Opportunity with Ron Huxley, LMFT

If you are having parenting troubles and need some quick parenting advice, let Ron Huxley help you with a convenient 10 minute coaching session for only $10. He will use his 22 years of experience to help you find powerful solutions and peace of mind.  Space is limited so contact Ron immediately by email at rehuxley@gmail.com. 

* Coaching is not therapy or medical advice.

* Coaching can take place via phone or secure video. 

* Payment is via paypal or stripe. 

Learn more about Ron here!