The relationship you have with your son or daughter is vitally important to you. Fortunately, you may be able to count on your child’s co-parent to respect that relationship. If that does not happen, you may need to act quickly to prevent long-term harm. 

Parental alienation happens when one parent damages the other’s parent-child relationship. Your ex-spouse may do this either intentionally or unintentionally, but the results are the same. Specifically, your child learns to fear, distrust or dislike you. 

Common signs of parental alienation 

Because parental alienation comes in many different forms, it can be difficult to identify. Usually, though, this type of behavior does not stem from a single or isolated event. Instead, a co-parent’s ongoing or pervasive actions eventually sabotage the parent-child relationship. 

Nevertheless, if you see evidence of the following, your child’s co-parent may be engaging in parental alienation: 

  • Your ex-spouse makes negative comments about you in front of your child. 
  • Your ex-spouse prevents you from seeing your child. 
  • Your ex-spouse excludes you from normal parent-child activities or decisions. 

Documentation of parental alienation 

Because a co-parent’s actions may be in private, it can be difficult to document suspected parental alienation. Still, doing so is a worthwhile endeavor. You may want to write a custody diary, where you contemporaneously record what you observe. Keeping relevant correspondence, such as text messages or emails, may also be helpful. 

Virginia’s best interests standard 

Like you, the commonwealth wants what is best for your child. In fact, when making custody determinations, judges in the Old Dominion must carefully consider the child’s best interests. To do so, they weigh a number of factors. One of these is whether each parent supports the other’s parent-child relationship. If you have evidence that a co-parent is trying to alienate your child, a judge is apt to want to hear about it. 

You are probably fiercely protective of the relationship you have with your son or daughter. By understanding what to do if a co-parent harms that relationship, you protect both yourself and your child.