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Parental alienation versus child abuse: Getting to the truth

In some contentious divorces, one or both spouses are so consumed with hate that they turn their child against the other parent by lying to the child about that parent, sometimes saying that the he or she doesn't love them. In some cases, children are even convinced to say that a parent has abused them when they haven't.

This goes beyond saying unkind things about your ex in front of a child. It's known as "parental alienation" because it turns children against a parent for no valid reason and destroys their relationship with a parent. Too often, that parent doesn't understand the reason for the child's animosity.

Naturally, parental alienation can be highly damaging to a child well into adulthood. However, charges of parental alienation can also allow real child abuse to continue. Family court judges overseeing cases where one parent is alleging abuse and the other parent is claiming parental alienation have to determine who is telling the truth.

One law professor notes that unfortunately, when one parent accuses the other of abuse, the parent bringing the charge can actually lose custody, leaving the child in the hands of an unfit or abusive parent because the judge believed that the accuser was guilty of parental alienation.

That's why it's essential that if you accuse your co-parent of abuse, you have evidence to back it up. Psychologists may be called in to talk with the child. Witnesses may be brought in to testify on both sides.

Some experts believe the idea of parental alienation is overused and that too often judges believe that it's occurring when in fact there are valid reasons for a child's feelings. However, parents (most often fathers) who have been the victims of it know that it's very real.

Whichever side of the custody battle you're on, it's essential to present a strong and persuasive case. Your Massachusetts family law attorney can help you do that.

Source: ABC News, "Are Some Divorcing Parents Brainwashing Their Children? The Controversial Idea of Parental Alienation," Lauren Pearle, accessed Oct. 20, 2016

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