Divorce and separation are hard on an entire family, and they are especially difficult for children. Even if both parents are doing what they can to support their children and make the process easier, children can react in many different and negative ways. Unfortunately, there are situations where one parent influences a child and tries to turn them against the other parent. If you suspect that this is happening in your family, it is important to secure help from a St. Louis child custody and family law attorney.

Parents are likely going to have an adjustment period as they navigate a custody arrangement and their new family system. This may include parental disagreements. Although these conflicts are sometimes unavoidable, it is essential that disputes do not impact your child. Your feelings about your co-parent should not impact how you raise your child or cause you to say negative things about the other parent. If either parent does this, it may be considered parental alienation.

Understanding Parental Alienation

After a divorce, some children may exhibit parental alienation syndrome (PAS) due to the difficulties they have adjusting to the new family structure. However, in some cases, this behavior is not natural. Rather, it may be created or encouraged by one parent during or after a divorce. When one parent manipulates their child into rejecting or fearing the other parent, they are engaging in parental alienation.

Parental alienation hurts the entire family, especially a child. In some cases, these issues can be discussed between parents to achieve a resolution. Often, however, court action is required to modify custody and visitation.

How Parents May Express Alienation

A parent may engage in parent alienation through many behaviors, such as:

  • Claiming that the divorce was the fault of the other parent
  • Lying about or making disparaging comments about the other parent, their character, and their actions
  • Creating false accusations about the other parent being abusive
  • Preventing a child from spending time with or communicating with the other parent
  • Telling a child more details about the divorce than is appropriate
  • Planning fun events or trips that are interrupted by the other parent picking up a child
  • Encouraging a child to choose between parents

A parent engaging in this behavior may be doing this out of spite to the other parent or in hopes of getting more custody of their child. These actions can have severe consequences on a child’s mental and emotional well-being.

How Children Show Parental Alienation

If your co-parent is engaging in parental alienation, many behaviors occur when you aren’t there. That’s why it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of alienation in your child when they’re with you. Negative reactions from children after a divorce may be normal, but when these behaviors worsen after spending time with the other parent, this may be due to alienation. Signs of alienation in children may include:

  • They express fear, hate, or dislike of you for no clear reason.
  • They do not want to spend time with you or speak with you, even though you have made attempts to connect with them.
  • They make negative comments about you or are disrespectful.
  • They seem to parrot the language or actions of your co-parent.
  • Their behavior is significantly different after spending time with their co-parent.
  • They make false statements about you, believing them to be true.
  • They show no regret or remorse for their negative actions.

Keeping strong and clear communication open with your child during and after a divorce is important. It can help prevent parental alienation or make it easier for you to recognize.


Q: How Do Judges React to Parental Alienation?

A: Parental alienation is not legally considered child abuse, but a judge will often consider it to be. If you are able to prove that parental alienation is taking place, this will impact custody. Even if the actions are not considered abusive, the court will not consider it to be in a child’s interest to be in that parent’s custody.

Parental alienation can cause emotional and psychological harm to a child. The court will likely decide that it is not in the child’s interests for an alienating parent to have custody, and it may allow limited or supervised visitation.

Q: How Do You Deal With Parental Alienation After Divorce?

A: There are several ways of dealing with suspected parental alienation after a divorce. These include:

  1. Discussing the situation with your co-parent in case their harmful actions are not on purpose
  2. Ensuring that your child feels safe with you
  3. Keeping communication open with your child about this difficult situation
  4. Attending therapy with your child or with your co-parent
  5. Attending parenting classes with your co-parent
  6. Talking with an attorney about legal remedies, such as court-ordered therapy, modifications to the current custody orders, and other actions

Q: Is Parental Alienation a Crime in Missouri?

A: No, parental alienation is not a crime in Missouri. Although parental alienation is not illegal and not legally listed in the definition of abuse, it may result in the court determining a parent to be unfit. Custody is determined based on the child’s interests. A parent who is proven to engage in parental alienation may be considered to be placing the child’s psychological and emotional health at risk. Based on this, they may receive only limited visitation rather than custody.

Q: What Does a Severely Alienated Child Look Like?

A: There are several different behaviors expressed by children that may point to parental alienation. These may include a child:

  • Expressing sudden fear, hatred, or dislike of a parent for no specific reason
  • Refusing to spend time with a parent or even speak to them
  • Making sudden negative comments about a parent, often mimicking things spoken by the other parent
  • Believing that the other parent can do no wrong

If these behaviors become stronger immediately after spending time with the other parent, this further suggests parental influence.

Protecting Your Family’s Interests

Parental alienation can be incredibly damaging to a child’s self-esteem and psychological health. It’s important to discuss your situation with an attorney if you believe that parental alienation is occurring.

An attorney can help guide you to a solution outside of court, which can protect the relationship between you and your co-parent and protect your child from legal proceedings. However, if legal proceedings are necessary, your attorney can guide you through those as well. Contact Stange Law Firm today.