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How Do California Family Law Courts Deal with Parental Alienation Claims?

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Child custody disputes often proceed at a high-stress level. They are stressful on the parents, their attorneys, the judges who have to decide custody and the children involved in the case. Due to the nature of child custody cases, they are often expensive to litigate. When the case involves severely damaged relationships between the divorcing parents, the party that generally suffers the most from the contention is the child.

In particularly difficult custody cases, one parent may claim that the other parent is causing their child to reject them by actively undermining their relationship with their child or constantly denigrating the other parent in front of the child. Referred to as parental alienation, this type of situation is becoming more and more common.

Parental alienation can come in many forms and is sometimes difficult to identify. Parental alienation can be as simple as a mother always telling a child that their father doesn’t love them anymore or a father advising a child that their mom doesn’t want to see them when she is sick.

Some psychologists differentiate between parental alienation and what they term parental alienation syndrome (PAS). The term parental alienation syndrome refers to situations in which the child adopts their parent’s statements as truth and acts out by rejecting their other parent.

Parental Alienation Claims and California Courts:

When a parent claims parental alienation, the California court must determine why the child is alienated. Once they learn where the alienation originated, they attempt to remedy the broken relationship so both parents can be active in raising the child. The court will often have a child custody evaluation performed by an expert to determine the severity of the problem. In some cases, the court may address the issue by increasing the amount of time the child spends with the alienated parent. In more difficult cases, therapy or specific timeshares intended to improve the damaged relationship may be recommended. In extremely severe cases of parental alienation, the child may be removed from the house of the alienating parent and placed with the alienated parent. Before a California judge changes custody in response to parental alienation claims, they will generally need a psychological evaluation. This type of assessment can take 3-12 months to complete. Many evaluators avoid recommending custody changes but lean heavily towards reunification plans that depend on therapy.

If you are experiencing parental alienation in your California divorce and you need help to present your case to the court, please get in touch with the experienced California divorce attorneys at The Maggio Law Firm today. We can prepare the evidence necessary to show the court the long-term damage of parental alienation and push for quicker action.



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