When parents in Florida are going through a divorce, the process may become much more difficult if one parent is trying to manipulate the child against the other parent. Known as parental alienation, this is generally a dynamic that starts well before the divorce, when the parent begins relying on the child to fulfill emotional needs instead of the other way around. The child starts to learn that it is necessary to behave in certain ways to keep this parent’s approval.
In parental alienation, a parent may project their own failings onto the other parent. Children experience a huge amount of psychological pressure from the alienating parent. The constant lies the child is told about the other parent eventually take their toll, and the child may refuse to visit or live with the other parent.
A parent who is in this situation might turn to the courts to handle it, but unfortunately, the court system may be ill-equipped to deal with parental alienation. They may not have counselors on staff with a background in parental alienation. They may also struggle to distinguish between cases of parental alienation and situations in which a child refuses to visit the other parent because of abuse or neglect. However, if the legal system is responsive, supervised visitation with the alienating parent and therapy for everyone may resolve the situation.
In less contentious situations, parents may be able to negotiate an agreement for child custody and a parenting plan that satisfies all parties. Over time, this plan might change as the child’s needs change. Some children may express preferences about living arrangements as they get older. Parents who want to make a permanent change to the plan might be able to return to court for a modification. Having a legal document in place protects both parents and children.