Separation and divorce could be emotionally devastating for families. Children suffer as a result of their parents fight over custody and access.
In high conflict custody and access cases, parents engage in “parental alienation.” Child Protection psychologists opine that parental alienation is established if:
- there was a prior positive relationship with the targeted parent;
- there is an absence of abuse by the targeted parent;
- there is use of many of the alienating strategies; and
- the child exhibits most of the alienated child behaviours.
According to child protection psychologists, alienating strategies include:
- Badmouthing the other parent;
- Limiting contact between the parent and child;
- Interfering with communications between the parent and child;
- Telling the child that the targeted parent does not love him or her;
- Forcing the child to choose between the parents;
- Confiding in the child personal adult and litigation information;
- Forcing the child to reject the targeted parent;
- Asking the child to spy on the targeted parent;
- Asking the child to keep secrets from the targeted parent; and,
- Referring to the targeted parent by their first name.
Conflict and abuse can have life lasting effects on a child. It is in the child’s best interest for parents to negotiate a parenting plan, outlining how parents will raise their child after separation or divorce.
A parenting plan is a written document that outlines parenting arrangements such as:
- how decisions about the child are made (jointly or individually but in consultation with the other parent);
- how information is shared between parents;
- when each parent will spend time with the child; and,
- how other parenting issues may be addressed.