“Parental Alienation” is not a magic phrase in custody cases.

Many a client have come to me with misinformation about the relationship between “Parental Alienation” and Family Court. Parents proclaim those words and expect them to somehow work magic, like custody’s own “abracadabra alacazam.”  POOF!  Their worries are over because clearly the other parent is alienating the child, so there should be a complete change of custody.

While parental alienation is a very real thing, it’s one of the most difficult to address in Family Court. It is not a magic phrase.

As with everything presented to the court, there must be evidence. Parental alienation is very difficult to prove. We rarely find admissible, clear evidence to support the allegation. A parent may feel the evidence exists, but it’s important to remember that a judge doesn’t have a frame of reference, let alone a history with the family and the relationships therein. What seems crystal clear to a mother or father can be quite murky to a judge.

If there really is parental alienation occurring in a case, it’s best to have a mental health professional assess the situation. Talk to the child. Talk to the parents. Understand the conflict. It could very well be alienation. If it is, having an expert suggest it to the court is exactly the type of credible evidence that would need to be shown.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Matthew K. Purcell is a shareholder with FORESTER PURCELL STOWELL PC, a Northern California firm focused exclusively on specialized counsel for complex family law issues. Matt is a Certified Family Law Specialist and has more than a decade of experience handling a range of family law issues, as well as guardianships and juvenile dependency. Offering broad expertise to his clients, Matt has handled everything from intricate property and support issues to complex custody issues involving allegations of sexual and physical abuse, domestic violence, parental alienation, and relocations. The firm regularly represents business owners, professionals, and other high net worth individuals (or their spouses) in divorce, premarital agreements, custody disputes, and related actions. The legal team can be reached via our Contact Page or by phone at 916 293 4000. This information is general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice.
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