Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

What Is Parental Alienation?

Recently I had the pleasure and privilege of appearing as a guest on the Google Hangout program Legally Speaking as a guest New Jersey family lawyer on this excellent program.  During the show I explained that, as a New Jersey divorce attorney my primary focus is always on the best interests of children.  Specifically, we discussed the issue of parental alienation and how I aggressively protect children in the Superior Court of New Jersey

What is Parental Alientation?

Parental alienation is when one parent, usually the custodial parent, bad mouths the other parent, usually the non-custodial parent, to the children. He or she will lie about the other parent and make them seem like the worst person in the world. Although often done intentionally, there have been cases as well where a parent will engage in such hostile aggressive parenting unconsciously. He or she may still be upset from the divorce and express his or her anger in the wrong way in front of the children.

By virtually attempting to brain wash a child, the parent engaging in parental alienation hopes to end communication between the child and the other parent. This is not only harmful to the child’s physical and mental health, but can cause them to have behavior issues as well. Additionally, many children that are involved in a parental alienation case will carry with them the feelings of hatred throughout their lives. 

Why is it important for people to be aware of parental alienation?

On April 25th, parental alienation awareness day is celebrated. It is a day not only to educate parents on parental alienation, but children as well. Surprisingly, many parent do not even know that there is such thing as parental alienation; they merely think it is a reaction to divorce to act in such a manner. Moreover, many parents do not realize the potential harmful impact that parental alienation has on children.

By making more and more parents and children aware, a child’s best interests are more likely to be served. The founder of parental alienation awareness day, Sarvy Emo, was quoted saying that “with awareness comes education, and with education, comes the power to stop the mental and emotional abuse of children.” These words should resonate with all parents throughout our country so that parental alienation can be a thing of the past.

Can I bring a claim in court for parental alienation?

The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division first addressed the issue of parental alienation in 2010 in the case of Segal v. Lynch, 413 N.J. Super. 171 (App. Div. 2010). In Segal, a father of two children brought suit against his former girlfriend for an extreme case of parental alienation. He alleged that his ex “intentionally or recklessly engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct designed to poison his relationship with his children, which alienated the natural bond and affection that should exist between them…” Id at 177.

To support his claim, the father stated that after their split the mother moved twice with the children, ruining all chances he had at regular visitation. He alleged that his ex would not create a formal visitation schedule and limited interactions between him and the children to phone calls and email. Upon the second move to a new state, the mother cut off all communication with the children’s father completely. Specifically, he alleged that she “changed her telephone number, blocked all of his emails and forbade the children from mailing or otherwise contacting their father.” Id at 180.   

The Appellate Court held that the father did not successfully state his cause of action and therefore dismissed the complaint, ruling for the mother. It stated that it saw “no legal impediment in permitting one spouse to bring an action against the other which asserts only emotion distress as the measure of damages.” Id at 187. Furthermore, the Court was fearful that if it did rule for the father, it might force the children to testify against their mother in a possibly distressing process.           

When I argue this issue in a New Jersey Family Court, I place on the record the magnitude of the terrible consequences that a child will likely face if they are the victim of parental alienation.   The ramifications not only immediately adversely affect the child, but this victim could be hurt emotionally and psychological damage on a permanent basis.  I aggressively argue that, in my book, such behavior amounts to psychological molestation of the minor child. 

Simply put, at the Law Offices of Edward R. Weinstein, parental alienation of a child will never be tolerated.