The San Fernando Valley Bar Association devoted the May edition of its Valley Lawyer magazine to family law matters. A couple of interesting articles highlighted some important and related issues to watch out for in a high-conflict divorce: the reluctance of children to participate in visitation with the non-custodial parent; and the situation where the actions of one parent serves to alienate the child from the other parent.
In Visitation Reluctance in High Conflict Divorce, Marriage and Family Therapist Terry L. Asanovich identifies a host of reasons why a child may be reluctant to participate in visitation with the non-custodial parent:
- Separation anxiety
- Disruption in daily activities
- Fear of or inability to cope with a high-conflict custody exchange
- A rigid, angry or insensitive parenting style
- Fear of leaving an emotionally fragile parent alone
- Remarriage/stepparent issues
In addition, Ms. Asanovich describes a continuum of parent-child relationships that may exist post-divorce, with the degree of visitation reluctance increasing along the spectrum:
- Having an affinity for one parent over the other
- Being allied with one parent over the other
- Feeling estranged from one parent
- Felling alienated from one parent
The thread of parental alienation is picked up by Plinio J. Garcia, a parenting consultant and certified breakthrough parenting instructor, in his article, Helping Clients When Parental Alienation Occurs. According to Garcia, citing Dr. Jayne Major, parental alienation can occur when one parent makes derogatory comments about the other parent in a way that affects the child, who then develops and expresses an unjustified hatred or unreasonably strong dislike for the other parent.
Garcia describes many different ways in which a parent can communicate in a derogatory manner about the other parent:
- Direct verbal communication
- Indirect communication
- Misleading communication
- Malicious communication
- Hidden or nuanced communication
- Social media communication
Look for the Signs, Protect Your Children
Two-thirds of all divorces involve minor children. No parent consciously wants to see their children hurt, but often we are unaware of the ways in which our actions can have repercussions on the children in our lives. Divorce is one area in which it pays to be extra sensitive to the behavior of both parents as they relate to each other and to the children to prevent or minimize any negative feelings the divorce may generate in the children.
Family law attorney Andy Cook advocates for individual, parental and family rights in San Diego and throughout Southern California. Contact the Law Offices of Andy Cook for supportive, attentive consultation and representation in your divorce or custody matter.