Parental Alienation: Using Your Kids as Pawns in Your Battle Against the Other Parent

Parental Alienation: Using Your Kids as Pawns in Your Battle Against the Other Parent

August 6th, 2018 by McNeely | Stephenson

The use of children as weapons in an ugly war between parents is a common issue that family law attorneys deal with. Either their own clients engage in it or the other parent is playing emotional games with children to seek revenge for a divorce or ending a relationship. It’s a no win situation for the parents and the children.

Parental alienation can happen to any couple, no matter where they live, how wealthy or poor they may be. A famous case of parental disputes involves Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. The two are going through a divorce that Jolie filed for in 2016. The couple has six children. Jolie claimed she wanted an end to the relationship to protect the family’s health. Pitt was cleared of child abuse charges by the FBI and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services two years ago.

Whether or not Jolie’s claims of abuse have any merit we don’t know for sure. In general, if a parent fabricates these types of accusations, it is a classic case of parental alienation.

Judges look at several factors when determining what type of child custody a parent should have after a divorce. An important factor is whether the parent is ready and willing to foster healthy relationships between the children and the other parent. If trying to emotionally blackmail a child into hating the other parent is part of your strategy to get sole custody, it will probably backfire. The judge may instead award physical custody to the other parent because of the harm being done to the child.

In Jolie’s case, the judge stated that if she doesn’t start encouraging her children to forge relationships with Pitt, she could lose custody of them, according to USA Today. The judge found the lack of relationships is harming the children (aged nine to sixteen) and that it’s critical they have healthy, strong relationships with both parents.

Jolie was ordered to,

  • Arrange a phone call with the kids and their doctors to explain to them the court decided each of them are safe with their father.
  • Make their younger children available to Pitt during set dates and hours. It was left up to the oldest child, 16, to decide how much time he wanted to spend with his father.
  • Give Pitt the numbers of the children’s cellphones, allow him to call when he wanted and not monitor texts between Pitt and his children.

The judge warned Jolie, “If the minor children remain closed down to their father and depending on the circumstances surrounding this condition, it may result in a reduction of the time they spend with (Jolie) and may result in the Court ordering primary physical custody to (Pitt)…”

Although the divorce had been heated and very public, last year the two released a joint statement claiming they agreed to handle the divorce in a private forum and would work together to reunify their family.

You may have been treated very poorly by the other parent during your relationship or marriage, but that should not impact your children’s relationship with him or her. Unless you have genuine, legitimate fears of child abuse by the other parent, trying to keep them apart is not a good idea. This can be a very sensitive and raw topic that needs to be discussed with your attorney.

If you’re considering getting a divorce or initiating child custody proceedings and have questions about it, call us or contact McNeely Stephenson online today so we can discuss your situation confidentially during a consultation.