In the aftermath of a divorce, when emotions are still raw, you can have an overwhelming desire to punish your ex-spouse. Often, unfortunately, that can take the form of disparaging your spouse in front of your children or taking actions designed to minimize or alienate your child’s affections for the other parent. It frequently works, causing the child to resist visitation. Even when it doesn’t work, it can have a devastating impact on children, who feel caught in the middle.
Ways to Protect Yourself from Alienation of Parental Affection
One of the first ways to protect yourself from parental alienation is to ensure that you get joint or shared legal custody as part of the divorce decree. Legal custody refers to decision-making about the important aspects of your child’s life, such as discipline, education, health and religious training. Joint legal custody ensures that one parent doesn’t make all those decisions to the detriment of the other parent.
If you have joint legal custody, but your ex-spouse either refuses to recognize it or engages in behavior that is contrary to the court order, you can ask the court to find your ex-spouse in contempt. The signed divorce decree is a court order with the force of law and the violation of that order can result in sanctions from the court, including fines and even jail time.
Another way to try to prevent parental alienation by your ex is through a protective order. Typically, protective orders are put in place to address instances of domestic violence or abuse, but the court has the discretion to either issue an order that specifically addresses parental alienation or include provisions prohibiting that behavior in any other protective order. Violation of a protective order is generally considered contempt of court and can result in fines and/or incarceration.