Celebrities Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie appeared in the news last week as their child custody battle continues. The newest development in their court case is a court order stating that Angelina is in danger of losing custody if the children's relationship with Brad does not improve. Based on the children's deteriorating relationship with their father, it appears that Angelina may be taking part in behavior known as parental alienation.
As defined by Psychology Today, parental alienation occurs when one parent acts to "program" their children against the other parent. Acts such as putting blame on the other parent, refusing to comply with visitation, blocking communication from the other parent, and even asking the child to choose one parent over the other are all signs of parental alienation at work. The result of these acts is that children develop negative and false views about the targeted parent.
In addition to causing concern and frustration to the targeted parent, parental alienation is harmful to the children as well. Parental alienation may result in a condition called Parental Alienation Syndrome, in which children develop a belief that the targeted parent is dangerous. Some psychologists even refer to this as a form of abuse. While the syndrome has not been recognized in the New Jersey court system yet, parental alienation behaviors are not taken lightly.
Parents who are facing parental alienation in New Jersey have several options available to them. They may choose to participate in mediation, which can include the formation of a parenting plan to end alienating behaviors. If relations have become too contentious, however, court action may be necessary. The judge may choose to order therapeutic and make-up parenting time for the targeted parent. In more extreme cases, custody may be changed to the targeted parent. New Jersey's criminal codes also allow for a parent to be guilty of interference with custody for some alienation behaviors. N.J.S.A. 2C:13-4. A family law attorney is able to offer legal assistance to any parent experiencing parental alienation in order to help navigate ongoing custody battles efficiently.