Parental Alienation in Texas Law
Parental alienation syndrome is a manifestation of mental and emotional abuse resulting from parents fighting for custody of a child. This happens when one parent disparages another parent by making accusations about their spouse in front of the children. Often the spouse is described as dangerous, harmful or abusive, greatly exaggerating the spouse's shortcomings, either real or imagined.
Often times the disparaging parent tells the children that the spouse doesn't love or care for them. When this happens children can become aligned with one parent or the other believing that the parent wants them to hate the spouse. The child then joins in the denigration with the parent they become aligned with in order to avoid perceived abandonment or rejection by them.
Parents often engage in these behaviors because they are unable to cope with their own personal disappointment in regards to the failed marriage. In order to cope with their own hurt and anger they demonize the ex-spouse and then encourage their children to help repair their own sense of self worth by having the children join in the projection of responsibility onto the other parent.
Sometimes a parent seeking to alienate their children from their spouse makes false claims regarding domestic violence or other false representations trying to get the spouse removed from the home. Such malicious and misplaced domestic violence restraining and protective orders and make it difficult for the alienated parent to defend himself or herself against the false allegations in court.
The issue of parental alienation can be controversial. The American Psychiatric Association does not currently list parental alienation as an official psychological disorder. Some feminist groups argue that parental alienation is an invented disorder used by men to justify abusive behavior.
Because psychiatrists have not listed parental alienation is an official psychological or psychiatric condition the courts do not have an official legal standard to evaluate it's presence in a child. Nevertheless, many attorneys are increasingly claiming parental alienation in custody battles.
In some cases courts have taken action when parental alienation has been alleged. Judges can appoint guardians ad litem to study children's living situation or a parenting facilitator to study parent interactions with their children. Forensic psychologists can also be employed to study the mental health of both the parents and the children. These reports may lead courts to make any number of rulings including imposition of court ordered therapy, restricted visitation or reduced parental rights.
John Q. Lawyer
Attorney at Law
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