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How Alienation Can Poison Parenting Time

By Nottage and Ward on August 24, 2018

In most divorces, there is one thing the couples have in common: pain. The divorcing couple has built a life together, and at one point, they loved each other. And now, as time has passed, that love has deteriorated into hard feelings or absence of feelings altogether. Often, the only thing holding the couple together is the child they share.

Unfortunately, when relationships sour to the point of dislike, or even hatred, children can become a battleground for the parents. What began as casual venting may turn into a barrage of viciousness poured into the ear of the child—like poison. In situations like this, it’s possible for one of the parents to consciously attack the other parent by using the child as a weapon. In the Illinois family court system, this is called parental alienation, sometimes referred to as “hostile aggressive parenting.”

The effects of parental alienation can begin subtly on the child, but eventually these attacks cause the child to develop negative feelings and emotions toward the parent. Parental alienation can also be carried out by a grandparent or a future stepparent, or anyone representing one parent over the other. It’s important to always keep in mind the perspective of the child in this situation, and be very careful what you say.

Questions to Ask Yourself

How can you, as a parent, recognize parental alienation occurring in your child at the hands of your former spouse? Try to take an honest and objective view of the situation. Observe your child when you discuss your ex-spouse, and see if his or her expression or body language changes. Also pay attention to your own thoughts or feelings, such as:

  • “I think my ex is using my child against me.”
  • “My ex never wants me to see my child.”
  • “My child never seems enthusiastic to spend time with me.”
  • “My ex is always openly hostile to me, no matter who is around.”

Parental alienation can cause serious, long-lasting damage in your relationship with your children, and can be difficult to notice until it’s too late. If you suspect your child is being used as a pawn against you by your former spouse, don’t wait too long to do something about it. Children are extremely impressionable, and it could take years to regain their trust. At Nottage and Ward, LLP, we have been representing families in the Chicago area for over 25 years, and we have dealt with many contentious child allocation issues. Call us at (312) 332-2915 to set up a consultation.

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