What to Do If You're an Alienated Parent

Are your children refusing to see you? When you do see them, do they act very uncomfortable around you? Have your children gone from showing love and affection to acting like they do not want to be anywhere near you? If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you may be on the receiving end of parental alienation syndrome (PAS).

The American Psychological Association defines PAS as: “A child’s experience of being manipulated by one parent to turn against the other (targeted) parent and resist contact with him or her. This alignment with one parent and rejection of the other most often arises during child custody disputes following divorce or separation proceedings, particularly when the litigation is prolonged or involves significant antagonism between the parties.”

PAS is a Real Problem

According to Richard A. Gardner, M.D., PAS is a form of emotional abuse, and we have to agree. Dr. Gardner goes on to explain how PAS destroys the bond between children and targeted parents, and such destruction is likely to last a lifetime. “One cannot reestablish a relationship if there has been a hiatus of a few if not many years,” he says.

In the past, courts usually did not take action in situations involving PAS; however, according to Dr. Gardner, things are changing, specifically due to increasing awareness among family courts about PAS and it being a widespread problem, and the conclusion that courts do have the power to do something about it.

In California for example, there is a law on the books that offers legal recourse for alienated parents. Under Section 278.5 of the California Penal Code, it reads:

“Every person who takes, entices away, keeps, withholds, or conceals a child and maliciously deprives a lawful custodian of a right to custody, or a person of a right to visitation, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both that fine and imprisonment, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for 16 months, or two or three years, a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or both that fine and imprisonment.”

If you are an alienated parent and your child’s other parent is not letting you see your children or is otherwise depriving you of your court-ordered custody or visitation, you have legal rights that can be enforced by the courts. The worst thing is to decide the situation is hopeless because it’s not. Our advice is to contact our Orange County family law firm to explore your legal options starting with the family court system.