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How Does Ohio Law Address Parental Alienation in Child Custody Cases?

What is Parental Alienation?

According to the National Center for State Courts, parental alienation is a divisive strategy employed when one parent intentionally or unintentionally displays unjustified negativity regarding the other parent to the child. The purpose of this strategy is to lessen the child’s relationship with the other parent.

What are the Different Types of Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation may not always present in the same way in every case. However, all forms of alienation involve one parent actively discouraging a positive relationship between the other parent and their child. Severe forms of alienation warrant a change of custody and may even be viewed as abuse. Types of parental alienation include:

  • Naive alienation: This is considered the most mild form of alienation and is typically done unintentionally. Examples of naive alienation include one parent making disparaging remarks about the other parent in front of the child or two parents openly arguing in front of the child.
  • Active alienation: This parent actively and intentionally attempts to create a wedge in the relationship between the child and the other parent. This is done through lies about the other parent, withholding visitation with the child, asking that the child keep secrets from the other parent and other forms of manipulation. Active alienation can result in extensive damage that is difficult to repair and may require years of therapy to rebuild the relationship.
  • Obsessive alienation: Similar to active alienation, obsessive alienation is done with intent. However, the parent that perpetuates this form of alienation is actively trying to dissuade any interest in the child to build a relationship with the other parent. This can cause a child to distrust the other parent and believe the manipulating parent is acting in the child’s best interest.

What are the Symptoms of Parental Alienation in Children?

While not every case of parental alienation looks the same, there are some common indicators that this may be occurring. 

  • The child begins repeating phrases commonly said by the alienating parent.
  • The child’s anger and rejection are disproportionate to any surrounding event.
  • The child speaks in absolutes, such as having nothing good to say about the alienated parent and nothing negative to say about the manipulating parent. 
  • The child feels no remorse for the way the alienated parent is treated and may feel entitled to gifts, favors, or special treatment from that parent. 
  • The child justifies his or her actions with vague reasoning.
  • The child becomes defensive over the manipulating parent.
  • The child believes the decision to reject the other parent was his or her own decision and may deny any influence from the manipulating parent.

How Does Parental Alienation Affect Child Custody Cases?

An Ohio family court judge will consider a list of factors when determining who gets custody of a child. Ohio Law makes it clear that whichever parent actively demonstrates the desire and ability to co-parent effectively will be favored in custodial decisions.

Ultimately, this decision is based on what will be in the best interest of the child, as decided by the judge. A few of the factors considered are:

  • The child’s interaction and relationships with the parents, siblings, and any other person residing in the same dwelling
  • Which parent is more likely to adhere to the court-mandated visitation and companionship rights
  • The ability of each parent to encourage positive relationships with love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent

If one parent can prove the other parent is attempting parental alienation, a judge may modify a custody order and order that the offending behavior be stopped. If it continues, the offending parent may be held in contempt of court and ordered to pay a fine or lose their visitation or parental rights. 

Other factors considered in child custody cases in Ohio are as follows:

  • The wishes of the parents
  • The wishes of the child, pending maturity
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
  • The mental and physical health of both the parents and the child
  • Failure to make child support payments
  • Whether either parent or other individual in the dwelling has a history of child abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, or other domestic violence
  • Whether either parent lives or plans to live out of state

How Can I Prove Parental Alienation?

While parental alienation is not always easy to spot, there are certain ways to prove it is happening. 

  • Social media: Posts, comments, or pictures produced by the manipulating parent may be prevalent on social media. While a court will typically suggest not responding to the posts, documenting and saving them will favor the alienated parent.
  • Text messages: Text messaging is a common form of communication between co-parents. If these communications relay incriminating information or an admission of speaking negatively to the child about the other parent, then the messages should be saved as evidence.
  • Witnesses: Any family members, neighbors, or friends who have witnessed alienating behavior could be an effective tool in proving alienation.
  • Experts: Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals may be able to work with the child to determine if alienation has occurred. 

Do I Need an Attorney?

When your relationship with your child is under attack, you need representation you can count on. Here at Lawrence Law Office, we will work tirelessly to ensure your child is no longer subjected to the abuse of alienation. Call us today at 614-228-3664 or fill out a contact form for a consultation.

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