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Parental Alienation

In contested divorces, it is difficult to shield children from the conflict between their parents. Most of our clients are conscientious about minimizing the impact of their divorce on their children, but we often see alienating behavior from parents who purposefully or unwittingly drag their children into the fight. Alienating behavior includes subtle or overt rewards from the alienating parent to the child for rejection of the target parent, as well as subtle or overt punishments for maintaining a loving relationship with the target parent. Alienating behavior can drive a wedge between the child and the target parent and create an unhealthy bond, based on hostility toward the target parent and hostility between the alienating parent and the child.

The question is not whether alienating behavior occurs or whether it is damaging to the child. As experienced family law attorneys, we affirm both points. The question is whether one parent’s alienating behavior creates a syndrome, which is defined as a group of symptoms that collectively indicate a psychological disorder.

Psychologists who favor recognition of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) point to a broad array of symptoms:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety, panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive behaviors
  • Bedwetting
  • Delinquent behavior
  • Eating disorders
  • Intense fears of being abandoned
  • Lack of self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Loss of impulse control
  • Poor peer relations
  • School problems, such as declining grades, disruptive behaviors, or aggression
  • Separation anxiety or overly clinging behavior toward the alienating parent
  • Sexual identity problems
  • Sleep disorders or night terrors
  • Substance abuse and self-destructive behavior

The American Psychiatric Association and has not yet included PAS in its Statistical and Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders. However, they have come close with some of the definitions defined in the category of child psychological abuse. You must be prepared to show a pattern of behavior that interferes with the quantity and quality of your parenting time and very likely have an expert in the field of PAS to testify to the existence of PAS in your case.

For further guidance on protecting your parental rights after divorce, contact the family law attorneys at Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A.

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Client testimonials
  • "Tori had a thorough understanding of my situation and made excellent recommendations to resolve my concerns. She was persistent on communication and handled everything in a very timely manner. I would definitely hire her again in the future if needed." - M.K.

  • "With Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A., it is like having a family physician. They are all knowledgeable, thorough, comforting, and the only call I need to make for all my legal needs for many years to come. No matter what the matter, I totally trust their advice and commitment to me and my family." - J.N.

  • "Mary from APH Law helped me thru a difficult divorce. She and the entire staff was there for me every step of the way helping me on what to do next. They listened to what I wanted and helped me achieve what matter the most to me in the divorce settlement." - Dana C.

  • "I chose APH after my initial consultation with Mary. I felt my best interest would be represented. The entire process went excellent, the attorneys and staff communicated effectively and efficiently with me throughout the process as they needed to. Being new to the legal process and verbiage, they walked me and talked me through the next steps and the jargon, I felt completely comfortable and represented. I hope I never have to use legal services again but if I do I will call Mary at APH Law and know that I will be taken care of." - Jeff M.

  • "Divorce is a time of emotion and stress. Mary Pfeifer , My lawyer was professional and compassionate. She was very informative through the process. Her insight helped me in my decisions. She worked hard to obtain a settlement which was fair to both parties. Though, I hope I won't need her help again. It is reassuring to know a good person that is willing to help." - Rod S.

  • "I first came to Ms. Jacquelyn Lutz of Appelhof, Pfeifer and Hart in October of 2016. It was definitely the worst time in my life and she compassionately spoke with me about my options. Ms. Lutz thoroughly explained the laws, statutes, process and what to expect going forward. What was supposed to be one case, turned into three intricate cases that took a huge toll on me and my family. Ms. Lutz represented me in court on all three cases with a vast knowledge of the laws and how to proceed accordingly. During all three cases she kept me informed, calm, gave me resources to utilize, and (most important) gave me a realistic view of what may come next. Ms. Lutz knew each case required a great deal of knowledge and creative thinking on how to legally proceed forward with each case. My family and friends are forever grateful for the amazing representation by Ms. Lutz. I highly recommend Ms. Lutz for anyone needing or considering superb representation for any kind of family law. " - M.H.

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