Issues Surrounding Separation and Divorce – Is it Parental Alienation or Realistic Estrangement?

Separation and divorce is a stressful time for anyone who experiences it.  There are many issues that come up that need sorting out including:

property division, spousal support, child support, business valuations, home transfers and financial equalization.  Of all the issues people have to face custody and access of their children is often the most traumatic and emotional of them all.

Challenges Related to Custody and Access

Custody and access of children include all of their own challenges including: who the child will live with, what the access schedule will be, where the child will go to school, etc.  Often parents who are separating disagree on many issues relating to their children.  Lawyers and courts become involved and sometimes custody and access assessments are ordered or recommended.  In some cases, parents experience being alienated from their children.

What is the Difference Between Alienation and Realistic Estrangement?

In cases where alienation is being alleged there are many things to consider.  What is alienation?  In an article by Dan Goldberg and Elizabeth McCarty, they state a common theme of alienation is “a child is expressing extreme negative feelings about a parent that are not supported by their experiences”.  Goldberg and McCarty state that in alienation cases “a parent regularly transcends the line of normal and appropriate influence to inappropriately use language and behavior to try to manipulate him/her to feel the same negative way about the other parent as they do”.

However, what happens when the child feels negatively toward the other parent and it is due to the parent’s behavior and not alienation? Goldberg and McCarty refer to a term called “realistic estrangement”.  They describe this term as “adults can be so focused on their own issues that they ignore this perspective; they are not able to examine their own behavior and the impact on the relationship”.  Parents need to ensure that their behavior is in line with what is in the child’s best interests.

So is it alienation or realistic estrangement?  As stated earlier, many factors need to be considered.  Call SMP Law today for more information.

[Source: Dan Goldberg, Senior Counsel, Office of the Ontario Children’s Lawyer, Toronto & Elizabeth McCarty, Counsel, Office of the Ontario Children’s Lawyer, Toronto. “Representing Children in Parental Alienation Cases”]
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