Divorce is an adult issue; however, if you’re a parent who is navigating proceedings or preparing to file a petition in a New Jersey court, you no doubt would agree that it is a decision that greatly affects children. Even so, you hopefully also know that you can build a strong support network from the start, and that children are generally highly adaptable and resilient, as long as they know their parents love them and will be by their side to help them cope with major life changes.

Things can get really messy rather quickly if there is contention between you and your ex. It’s common for spouses to feel some negativity toward each other in such circumstances; otherwise, they would likely want to stay married. If your former spouse carries that negativity over into your children’s lives, it can become a serious problem, especially if you fall victim to a parental alienation scheme.

What is it?

The term family law experts most often use to describe this type of problem in divorce is “parental alienation syndrome,” although it’s not something that happens on its own. On the contrary, it is an intentional ploy of one parent to turn children against the other, often as a means of revenge.

The fact is that most judges believe children fare best in divorce when they have ample opportunity to spend lots of time with both parents. In situations where there are extenuating circumstances, such as a protective order or a court decision deeming a parent unfit, it might not be possible. In most cases, however, it is in children’s best interests to maintain active, healthy relationships with both parents.

What are the signs of parental alienation syndrome?

While you may no longer want to be married to your ex, this doesn’t necessarily mean you want to go through life thinking poorly of your co-parent either. In fact, you might try to convince yourself that certain red flags are all in your head. It’s helpful to speak to someone you trust who has perhaps gone through a similar situation. It’s also a good idea to tap into local support resources, especially if a particular situation is interfering with your child custody order.

A parental alienation scheme often begins with one parent constantly saying bad things about the other to his or her children. This might include your ex telling your kids that you didn’t love them enough to try to save your marriage. Did your spouse cancel a custody exchange date but tell your kids that you simply failed to show up? Have your children stopped wanting to see or talk to you?  These are common signs of parental alienation syndrome.

How to resolve the problem

It can take a long time to convince children that one parent has given them false information or has intentionally tried to turn them against the other parent. The fact is, however, that you have rights, and you can protect those rights even (or especially) if the person undermining them has signed a co-parenting or shared custody agreement.

Most New Jersey parents seek immediate legal support when confronted with parental alienation syndrome or other child custody or child support problems. The court does not look favorably on a parent who disregards its orders and may hold a person in contempt for doing so.