Domestic matters, such as divorce and custody disputes can make life difficult for both parents and children.
However, it is typically the children who suffer the most as they are undergoing a significant amount of stress at a very young age. It is not uncommon for a divorce to impact a child’s behavior, whereby that child may no longer respect one parent or another. For example, there is a set of behaviors known as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), which is not a diagnosable disease or health condition, but simply describes a child’s behavior towards one parent.
What is Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)?
Parental Alienation Syndrome describes certain behaviors exhibited by a child that include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:
- Choosing one parent over another, completely ignoring and alienating the other parent;
- Choosing to be overtly mean or ridiculing to one parent over another;
- Making false allegations of mistreatment or abuse, often instigated by one parent; and
- Exhibiting behaviors of withdrawal, depression, and a lack of desire to have a good relationship with both parents.
PAS does not necessarily develop at the child’s own choosing. Rather, one parent may manipulate or brainwash a child into believing that the other parent should not be trusted and should not even be spoken to. PAS becomes an issue during custody battles when parents are fighting over who should have primary custody, and what the visitation arrangement should be. If a parent has evidence that a child is exhibiting behaviors associated with PAS, and has evidence that one parent is fueling this behavior, a court may decide that a custody arrangement needs to be adjusted.
There are numerous consequences associated with PAS that can make it very difficult for a child to grow emotionally along with other children during adolescent and teenage years. Also, the parent will suffer as well, especially when that parent did not overtly do anything to cause the child to become alienated. Given that so much is at stake with custody and visitation issues, speaking with a New Jersey Family Law Attorney is essential to ensure you have a full understanding of your legal rights and the rights of your children.