The Difference Between Estrangement & Parental Alienation

Dealing with Difficult Parent-Child Relationships

Going through a divorce when you have children is difficult enough, but navigating your relationship with your children post-divorce can feel like an ongoing struggle. This is especially the case in situations where you feel as if you’re relationship is getting more strained, and you don’t understand why. If you are seeing less and less of your children, or you feel your children pulling away from you, you may be wondering if what you’re going through is familial estrangement or if you’re suffering the effects of parental alienation.

Familial estrangement (sometimes called realistic estrangement)occurs when a family member (in this case, a child) intentionally pulls away from or distances themselves from another family member/s (such as their parent). Estrangement is an active choice made by the person pulling away, typically due to a strained relationship in which they no longer wish to participate.

Parental alienation occurs when one parent seeks to drive a wedge between their child and their child’s other parent. This manifests as the rejection of a parent by the child with no legitimate foundation or reason for that rejection. Parental alienation is frequently described as a type of brainwashing a parent perpetrates on their child.

Knowing the Difference

When you’re dealing with a difficult parent-child relationship, or you feel as if your child is rejecting you, it can be difficult to tell where it is coming from. It can also be nearly impossible to look at situations involving estrangement objectively. Even if a child has a valid reason to pull back from their parent, that parent may not see it as legitimate. Understanding some of the signs of parental alienation can help you identify when this is happening or if you are dealing with estrangement instead.

Signs of parental alienation include:

  • The child uses language that typecasts one parent as “good” and the other as “bad,” or one as the “hero” and the other as the “villain”
  • It is apparent that the child is parroting or repeating things that the other parent has said
  • There doesn’t seem to be any logic or explanation behind the child’s rejection of or dislike for their parent
  • The child habitually and always takes sides against the alienated parent, regardless of the circumstances at hand
  • The child has become hostile, combative, or cold toward the alienated parent

Another major indication that you are experiencing parental alienation is when your relationship with your child has dramatically changed very suddenly. Typically, with cases of estrangement, the change in the child’s behavior and the erosion of their relationship with their parent takes place gradually over a long period of time.

Do You Have Legal Recourse Against Parental Alienation?

Typically, the courts see parental alienation as harming the child’s well-being, and they take these issues seriously. Consequently, if your child’s other parent is intentionally trying to alienate your child from you, you may be able to seek legal remedy from the Colorado family court system.

Depending on the situation’s circumstances and how severe the alienation is, the courts may modify custody and visitation plans to help repair the relationship between the child and their alienated parent. They may also take other actions against the alienating parent.

Before taking your alienation case to court, it is recommended that you discuss your situation with an experienced, trusted family law attorney (like ours at the Law Office of Greg Quimby, P.C.). Your lawyer can help you determine if you are dealing with a case of estrangement or alienation and what your legal options are.

Are you struggling with parental alienation? Reach out to our Colorado Springs-based law firm for help.

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