Parental Alienation: An Invisible Form of Child Abuse

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Sep 01, 2023 | 0 Comments

Child custody battles can be emotionally damaging for all parties involved, but a couple's children typically bear the heaviest burden of feeling like they must “choose sides.” Although parents may feel it is appropriate to vent about their ex-spouse to their children, this can severely damage a child's psyche and emotional development.

What Is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation occurs when one parent, the alienating parent, persuades their child to reject, fear, or show hostility towards their other parent, referred to as the alienated parent. The alienating parent usually accomplishes this by manipulating their child's opinion and emotions towards the alienated parent. The alienating parent also actively restricts the access that the child may have to the alienated parent, forcing the child to “take sides.”

Parental alienation is highly concerning because it can cause irreparable harm to the parent-child relationship, all the while manipulating the child's ability to think for themselves and form their own opinions. Depending on the severity of the alienating parent's actions, parental alienation could be classified as child abuse. Pennsylvania defines emotional abuse of a child within Title 23, Pa.C.S. Chapter 63 as any act that “causes serious mental injury to a child” and renders them severely anxious, agitated, depressed, or socially withdrawn. If a parent intentionally fabricates this type of environment for a child resulting in mental anguish, they could face criminal charges under the state's Child Protective Services Law.

What Are Some Signs of Parental Alienation?

While other forms of abuse and neglect may be more evident to strangers because they can see the symptoms of physical abuse or neglect, emotional abuse is often much harder to pinpoint. Many people may also be hesitant to challenge a child's statement that they fear their child out of concern for validating the child's feelings which may be legitimate. Some nuanced signs of parental alienation abuse can include:

  • The child uses the same type of language to describe the alienated parent as the alienating parent.
  • The child's beliefs about their alienated parent are indistinguishable from those of the alienating parent.
  • The child has extremely hateful or disrespectful opinions about their alienated parent, which may also be particularly concerning due to their age.
  • The child's beliefs, memories, or opinions cannot be traced to their own experiences with the alienated parent.
  • The child lacks feelings of empathy or kindness towards the alienated parent.

What to Do as an Alienated Parent

Suppose you fear that your ex-partner has manipulated your declining relationship with your child. In that case, you should note any usual behaviors your child is suddenly exhibiting, such as harsh language that is not age-appropriate, refusals to engage in activities they once enjoyed with you, etc. Although there may be no basis for your child's fear, they could share misrepresentations about you that result in a criminal investigation. If this has occurred or you fear this could be the case, contact our Criminal Defense Team today for help. Our team can help you navigate various resources such as court intervention, therapy for you and your child, etc.

What to Do if You Have Been Accused of Parental Alienation

If you have been accused of parental alienation and are currently facing a ChildLine Referral, you should seek immediate legal counsel. Pennsylvania takes emotional child abuse allegations very seriously, and the resulting investigations can unearth nearly every aspect of your family's life. Our Criminal Defense Team can help you navigate what steps you should take, including how to respond to a ChildLine investigation, how to behave during custodial exchanges, etc.

Pennsylvania Child Abuse Attorney

Parental alienation claims are serious and should be handled with the utmost caution. Emotional abuse charges typically require retained experts, social workers, etc., making them an uphill battle to prove and one that can only further traumatize your child in the process. The LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is standing by to hear about your unique circumstances. Contact us today by calling (888) 535-3686 or by using our online contact form.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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The LLF Law Firm Team has decades of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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