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How do parents use alienation to gain custody?

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2022 | Child Custody

In contentious Arizona divorce cases, the children often become the targets and the victims of unintentional harm as parents fight over custody and child support. This behavior can sour loving relationships and cause lasting damage to the child.

When one parent accuses the other of sexual abuse or domestic violence, it can have a consequential effect on the alleged abuser’s future ability to be in their children’s lives. Of course, if the allegations are true, the parent seeking a protective order must remove themselves and the child and seek help as soon as possible. There is a gray area in the legal system, however, in parental alienation cases.

What is parental alienation, and how does it affect custody cases?

Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is the manipulation of a child’s relationship with one parent by the other parent to create an adversarial alignment with them. A child who is undergoing PAS rather than estrangement during separation or divorce will experience:

  • Constant critique of the targeted parent.
  • Arbitrary and childish reasons for the criticism.
  • The critical parent’s lack of guilt or shame for their behavior.
  • The child’s black-and-white opinion of each parent as good or bad.
  • The child’s automatic alignment with the critical parent.
  • The child’s adoption of their language and opinion toward the targeted parent.

PAS does not have a standard assessment process during divorce proceedings, and so the courts treat its admission as evidence differently. Allegations of abuse are serious, and frequent reports that come up during litigation will most likely destroy the possibility of shared custody.

However, an immediate defense of parental alienation can be effective if the targeted parent claims that the other parent is making up stories and deliberately turning the child away from them. Unfortunately, an abusive parent could effectively win shared parenting by claiming PAS, even if the allegations are true. The courts so strongly favor the idea of joint custody that they may turn a deaf ear to the victim’s pleas in the process.

What is in the best interests of the child in Arizona?

In Arizona, the court will determine the optimal custody arrangement by considering factors that are in the best interest of the child, including:

  • The child’s past, present and future relationship with each parent.
  • The extent of coercion or duress by one parent to obtain parenting time.
  • Evidence of domestic violence or child abuse.

When going into a difficult divorce proceeding, having the best possible legal advocacy will give Tucson parents a chance to fight for their parental rights as well as their child’s needs.