One of the most heartbreaking subjects of any divorce concerns potential harm to the couple’s children. Most divorcing parents are genuinely concerned about doing all they can to minimize trauma to their children.

Sadly, a subset of divorcing parents selfishly use their children to win a custody fight. An angry parent may sense he or she can leverage child custody as a weapon to threaten or get revenge on a spouse. 

Alienating a child

Unhealthy dynamics in divorce can involve some shockingly bad choices. Traveling the road of marital dissolution is, at best, fraught with potential damage to all family members. It is unconscionable for a parent to purposely alienate a child’s feelings toward the other parent in an attempt to gain a custody advantage. 

In some states, it is illegal for one parent to negatively impact their children’s affections for the other parent. Divorcing parents should watch for signs that an alienation campaign is in progress. 

Signs of unethical parenting

Typically, the following tactics may secure an unfair custody advantage by an underhanded parent:

  • Reports the other parent is mentally unstable
  • Accuses the target of unsubstantiated child abuse
  • Hides family photographs or deletes the other parent’s picture from photos
  • Tells the children the other parent does not love them
  • Removes the other parent’s contact information and name from the child’s medical records, school records and any other official documents where possible
  • Makes up excuses as to why the child is unable to visit the other parent
  • Cuts visits to the other parent short by manufacturing a fake emergency
  • Slanders the other parent on social media
  • Insists that mutual friends or relatives ostracize the spouse

A parent who sees any of these signs may worry that the hostile partner will succeed in alienating the children’s affections. It is obvious this behavior can only hurt the children and may turn an amicable divorce into a no-holds-barred battleground, with the children used as weapons in an “emotional hostage” takeover. 

New York child custody

Parental alienation can take various forms. New York State judges frown upon one parent’s egregious violation of a child’s right to familial love and protection from both parents. The ill-conceived attempt of one parent to sour the child toward the other parent can backfire, convincing a judge that the alienating parent is not fit to be a custodial parent.