Proving Parental Alienation to the Court in New York

If you are recently divorced or fighting for custody and believe the other parent is manipulating your child to say they don’t like you or don’t want to spend time with you, you may be able to prove parental alienation and secure custody.

Parental alienation is a tactic some dishonest parents use against the other parent for different reasons. Unfortunately, too many parents weaponize their children because they are angry at their former spouse or partner. Victims of parental alienation can suffer devastating consequences, often feeling rejected by their own children for no apparent reason.

A relatively new concept, parental alienation is sadly not a new phenomenon. It is not uncommon for some parents to discuss their frustrations about missed child support payments with their children. Though this is a mild form of parental alienation, one must always try to preserve the child’s relationship with both parents, regardless of any issues between them. Psychologically, having the child feel loved and nurtured by both parents is ultimately much more important than who pays for what. The children should be left out of these types of discussions.

The source of parental alienation is not always the parent. It could also be a step-parent, grandparent, or even an older sibling.

In the State of New York, there are several viable strategies to prove parental alienation to the courts. Based on our firm's legal experience, with over a decade advising hundreds of clients in New York child custody cases, New York courts typically accept the ways of proving parental alienation listed below. Of course, your attorney will review the facts of your case and advise you on the most appropriate strategies for you.

Identifying The Signs of Parental Alienation

Coined by Dr. Richard Gardner in the 1980s, the phrase ‘parental alienation’ is sometimes used lightly in the media but it can be a very serious matter.

Typically, the custodial parent is the alienator, and the non-custodial parent is the victim of the alienation. With more time spent with the child, the custodial parent has more opportunities to discredit the other parent in the eyes of the child. However, parental alienation can also happen the other way around.

When the non-custodial parent is the alienator, the custodial parent can have difficulty when the child returns home after a visit where the other parent manipulated them into thinking the custodial parent doesn't love them or is the cause of them the divorce or any other problems the child may have.

When parental alienation occurs, both the child and the alienated parent suffer. The child, who thought they had two parents who loved them, experiences the loss of one of them as they begin to see them through the eyes of the alienator.

Four Common Signs of Parental Alienation

  1. The child unjustly criticizes the alienated parent.

    A child under the spell of parental alienation may randomly criticize you for no reason. Even if you do everything that used to make them happy in the past, they can now look miserable and express anger at you.

  2. The child uses language that is not age-appropriate when criticizing the alienated parent.

    When the child uses strange adult vocabulary to criticize a parent, this may be a sign that they are just repeating words and ideas expressed by the other parent.

  3. The child will support the alienator even in the most unlikely circumstances.

    While the tiniest mistake you make can make you look like the worst parent in the world, nothing the other parent does will cause your child to criticize them. They may fail to fulfill promises, forget their birthday, or miss visitation. It doesn’t matter. They are the hero.

  4. The child will feel no guilt after hurting the alienated parent.

    Under normal circumstances, a child who says hurtful things to a parent will eventually feel guilty and apologize. But if parental alienation is at play, they may feel validated in insulting you and disrespecting you.

Identifying the early signs of parental alienation is vital for the child’s emotional well-being. When parental alienation is very advanced, the child may see any attempt to reunify them with the alienated parent as punishment. Children victimized by parental alienation are vulnerable, and therapy is often required to undo its effects.

Seven Ways to Prove Parental Alienation

If you prove parental alienation in court, this can lead to custody modifications. To achieve that, you must gather as much evidence as possible and resort to legal and mental health professionals who can support your claims.

The most effective ways to prove parental alienation in New York include the following:

  1. Gather evidence: record your child’s behavior in a journal, and save copies of text messages and emails from the alienating parent.
  2. Find witnesses who can testify regarding changes in your child’s behavior since the alienation process began.
  3. Appoint an expert witness who can verify that parental alienation is taking place.
  4. A social worker may record some of the signs of parental alienation listed above For example, they refer to the alienated parent in the same terms as the alienator or complain about missed child support payments.
  5. The child’s therapist may testify that the child’s behavior is related to parental alienation.
  6. A forensic evaluation may find signs of parental alienation.
  7. The child’s attorney may argue that there has been parental alienation.

Implementing effective strategies to prove parental alienation is not easy. But a New York parental alienation specialist can guide you through every step of the way. Ensure you have the best possible legal advice and consult with mental health professionals to protect your child’s emotional stability and well-being.

If you see any signs of parental alienation, you should thoroughly investigate and, if necessary, get the courts involved. Children can be greatly traumatized by parental alienation, and vigilance is vital.

Our team of litigators, child custody specialists, expert witnesses, mental health professionals, and investigators can help you protect your child and keep them safe from a parent who doesn’t have their best interests at heart. Contact us today for a consultation.


Karen Rosenthal

Karen B. Rosenthal is a partner and co-founder at matrimonial litigation firm Bikel Rosenthal & Schanfield LLP, where she brings 30 years of matrimonial law experience to bear in matters involving high-net-worth equitable distribution, contentious custody battles, and other high-stakes disputes. Certified as an Attorney for the Child and a frequent speaker on topics related to children going through high-conflict divorce, she has been recognized as a leading New York lawyer by Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, and New York magazine.

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