Tag Archive for: parental alienation

If your co-parent makes damaging, false statements about you and you suffer some legally recognized harm under Pennsylvania law, you may have a defamation case. If these statements are made to or around your child and alienate them from you, a faster resolution may be through family court.

Parental Alienation

If your co-parent is making defamatory statements about you to your child, or they hear them when they are made to others, this may be part of an effort to seek vengeance against you or to punish you by poisoning your relationship with your child. They may try to toy with the child’s feelings for you. They want to manipulate them to the point it negatively affects or breaks up their relationship with you.

These parental alienation efforts need not be intentional or directed at the child. Their criticism of you may be so constant and open that your child cannot help but hear and think about it. They may conclude you are such a bad person that they do not want to be around you.

If this happens, your child may need counseling to separate the fact that you love and care about them from the fiction that you are a terrible person. This can also be a basis to ask a court to end or limit the other parent’s visitation or custody rights.

Pennsylvania law makes putting both parents in a child’s life a priority, but there are limits. Two factors a judge should consider when making a custody decision are whether:

  • One parent is trying to turn the child against the other
  • A parent encourages and enables the child’s frequent and continuing contact with the other

If you discuss this problem with your co-parent and they deny it happens (but your child says it does) or tell you they will say whatever they want, you should contact our office. If we cannot convince them (directly or through their attorney) to stop, taking this to court and forcing them to understand that their slander is endangering their visitation or custody rights may make them change their ways.

Making Defamatory Statements to Others

If these remarks are not made to or around your child but are made to others, depending on the facts of the case, under Pennsylvania statute, you may have grounds for a defamation case against the co-parent. Defamation that is spoken (to neighbors, coaches, and teachers, for example) is considered slander, and when it is written (like in social media posts), it is libel.

The statements must tend to harm your reputation and lower your position in your community. They may also discourage others from associating or dealing with you. Libel would blacken your reputation and expose you to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule. A court would view these statements in the context of your relationship.

It is not enough if these statements embarrass, annoy, or anger you. You would have to show the court real and tangible injuries, such as distress, depression, or anxiety. Losing a job or customers if you own a business can also show the statements harmed you.

Your co-parent may have defenses to your defamation claims, including a denial that the statements were made, or that they were made but are truthful or they are the opinion of the co-parent. If you file a claim for libel, you will need to prove the statements were made negligently or maliciously to be awarded damages.

What Should I Do If My Child Starts Turning Against Me? 

If you think you may be dealing with parental alienation or believe your co-parent’s statements have gone too far, please call Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., at (215) 752-6200.

Children should not be forced or manipulated into taking sides in a divorce or custody matter. But that can happen when they are the focus of emotional blackmail by one or both parents. The parent attempts to make their child a player instead of an interested bystander in the family break-up drama. If you live in Montgomery or Bucks County, PA, we will work with the court to stop parental alienation.  

What is Parental Alienation? 

A parent may seek vengeance against their ex-spouse by poisoning their relationship with the child. They may also leverage their child’s feelings for them to control them to the point they break off or limit the relationship with the other parent. They may offer emotional and material incentives to the child to do so or force them to pick sides by telling them they can only love one parent, so they must choose which one. 

Alienation need not be intentional. A parent may not plan an alienation strategy and carry it out. The child may just witness one parent frequently and openly criticizing and degrading the other parent to the point that the child draws the conclusion that they do not want to be with them. 

What Harm Can Parental Alienation Do? 

The manipulating parent does not have the child’s best interests in mind. These actions can backfire if the child understands what is happening and realizes a parent is trying to manipulate them. The child may also suffer long-term emotional problems as a result. If severe enough, parental alienation could be considered a form of child abuse. 

What are the Indications of Parental Alienation? 

Some signs that one parent is alienating a child from the other parent, include the fact that the child: 

  • Is aware of divorce details only an adult should know  
  • Blames a parent for the divorce or end of the relationship 
  • Asks the targeted parent not to attend events like sports games or school events  
  • Becomes belligerent, defiant, or combative  
  • Is negative about the parent’s gifts or efforts, expressing a preference for the alienating parent’s gifts or time with them 
  • Repeats the alienating parent’s opinions  
  • Falsely accuses the parent of abuse or neglect 
  • Rejects or fears the parent 
  • Refuses to spend time or interact with the parent 
  • Shows a sudden change of attitude, preferring or rejecting a parent 
  • Shows no guilt or empathy when a parent suffers emotionally 

Depending on the child’s relationship with a parent and their ability to process what is going on, it may not take much effort for one parent to turn a child against the other.  

What Should I Do If My Child Starts Turning Against Me? 

There is a danger of falsely accusing a parent of alienating a child, who may be going through emotional problems because their parents’ relationship is breaking apart. The parents are the foundation of their safe and supportive environment, and they fear that is ending.  

If the issue is severe enough, your child should get counseling to work out their fears and feelings and help determine if the other parent is emotionally pulling your child away from you. You should also document your child’s words and behavior to see if there is a pattern (an apparent connection to visits or conversations with the other parent) and if the situation is getting better or worse. 

If you think you may be dealing with parental alienation during a divorce or custody dispute, please call Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., at 215-752-6200. 

If your spouse is talking badly about you to your kids, it needs to stop. Neither parent should degrade the other when speaking to their kids. Divorces can get very heated, but this emotional poisoning can harm the child. If this is happening, have a direct talk with your spouse and make it clear that this is unacceptable. 

If you’re lucky, maybe your spouse’s off-hand bad joke about you was misquoted by your child. Your spouse may have been talking to someone else, unaware that your kids could hear the remarks. If so, your spouse needs to be more careful.  

If this was an intentional verbal slam or an attempt to harm your relationship with your kids, it needs to stop immediately. Make it clear this won’t be tolerated. If it continues, our office can communicate with your spouse, and if that fails, we can seek a court order prohibiting this from happening and potentially cutting back the time your spouse spends with your kids. 

Are Your Spouse’s Words Harming Your Relationship With Your Child? 

They may have a tough enough time seeing their parents end their relationship. One loved parent telling them their other loved parent is a bad person is not good for anyone. Children need as much peace and certainty in their lives as possible. 

The official term for emotionally manipulating a child against the other parent is “parental alienation.” It, according to Psychology Today, happens when a child refuses to have a relationship with a parent because they’re being manipulated by the other. It can be exaggerating something, telling lies, or saying hateful things.  

Parental alienation can happen during a divorce, but it may take place before one starts or after it’s finalized. It could include emotional blackmail, where one parent threatens to withhold love or attention if the child continues their relationship with the other. A parent may convince a child to make a false claim of abuse or neglect. The parent may make the child promise that these statements and acts are secrets that can’t be revealed. 

What Impact Can Parental Alienation Have? 

As a result, a child may be distraught, confused, angry, sad, and lonely. Children may not understand why they love someone the other parent hates. They may be afraid to speak honestly with the targeted parent and lack evidence that what they’re being told is untrue. In extreme cases, this can impact a child’s relationship with a parent for years. 

Parental alienation can have more than an emotional impact on you and your child. It can affect custody proceedings. If your child is mature enough, a judge may give weight to your child’s opinion on which parent should have what kind of custody. If parental alienation colors that opinion, it can impact your case. If the other parent is interfering with the time you’re allotted with your child, that failure to cooperate can be used against them. 

If you suspect parental alienation is affecting your relationship with your child, please contact us here at Karen A. Ulmer, P.C. We can help clarify what’s going on and stop it. 

When parents are going through a contentious divorce in Bucks or Montgomery counties here in Pennsylvania, great care must be taken to ensure the children are not “put in the middle.” One common issue is parental alienation. Children subjected to emotional blackmail by one or both parents may suffer from parental alienation syndrome. These supposedly loving parents try to turn their children into pawns in the divorce. Not only will a parent harm their own interests trying to do this, but they may also cause long-lasting emotional harm to their kids.

Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., represents families in Bucks and Montgomery counties. Parental alienation is an issue that, sadly, we see too often. We help our clients deal with manipulative spouses and make sure courts know the damage they’re inflicting on their children. Contact us today so we can discuss parental alienation and share how we can help.

What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?

Parental alienation syndrome happens when a parent tries to turn a child against the other parent, according to Psychology Today. This attempt at estrangement can be seen as seeking revenge and trying to settle scores, and can inflict pain on the other parent.

This can happen when the parent criticizes, blames, or lies about the other parent to the child. They may try to prevent the child from spending time with the other parent and tell the child they can either love them or the other parent, not both. The alienating parent may also seek the help of other family members to split the child from the other parent.

Who Might Be More Likely to Alienate Their Child From the Other Parent? 

A narcissistic parent would be more likely to play harmful games with their child to punish the other parent. They don’t have empathy for others and they focus on themselves, their feelings, and their beliefs. They build themselves up by tearing others down. While claiming to protect the child, they inflict harm.

What Are the Legal Implications? 

A parent alienating a child from the other shouldn’t have legal custody. Pennsylvania statute emphasizes having both parents in a child’s life within limits. There are 16 factors to be considered by a judge deciding who should have what kind of custody including:

  • The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent
  • Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party

What Can You Do?

Tell us what’s happening. Your spouse is harming your child and that must end. We can file motions with the court asking that time with the child be supervised or eliminated.

Talk to your child. Tell them if the other spouse says bad things about you, they should get your side of the story. Don’t start bashing the other parent in response, or you may be accused of doing the alienating.

Get the Help You Need From a Lawyer You Can Trust

If you have any questions about or need representation in a child custody or divorce matter, call us at (215) 608-1867 or schedule a consultation online now. We can speak over the phone, via a teleconference, or meet in our Doylestown or Langhorne offices.

Parental alienation is defined as the programming of a child by one parent, consciously or unconsciously, to damage or destroy the child’s relationship with the other parent. It is most commonly found in high-conflict divorces and often directed at the non-custodial parent, but this is certainly not always the case. Sometimes the custodial parent is the target, and sometimes it even happens in intact families.


The manipulating parent may have difficulty separating from the pain of the divorce and focusing on the needs of the child, or the parent may have a personality disorder like narcissism. We recently wrote a post about divorcing a narcissist that may be helpful in recognizing this personality.


Even good parents can carry a lot of anger and sometimes allow negative comments about the other parent to slip out, but most good parents recognize that children will grow best if they maintain healthy relationships with both parents. It generally takes a very bad situation or a parent with a personality disorder to trigger alienating efforts.

However, parental alienation in some form is common: a 2010 study found it present in 11-15% of divorce cases. Here are some warning signs for a targeted parent to watch for:


  • Alienating parent badmouths the targeted parent in front of the child
  • Custodial parent blocks court-ordered visitation with various excuses
  • Child knows details of the divorce
  • Child expresses that the divorce is the targeted parent’s fault
  • Child asks targeted parent not to attend events like sports games or parent-teacher night
  • Child becomes much more belligerent, defiant, or combative
  • Child is derogatory toward targeted parent’s gifts or efforts, expressing a preference for the alienating parent’s gifts or efforts
  • Child repeats alienating parent’s opinions as if they are now his or her own
  • Child takes responsibility for the alienated feelings, as if it was his or her idea

Parental alienation is growing in recognition, and efforts are being made to address it in court. Some argue that it is a form of child abuse, as the child is being emotionally manipulated and fed false beliefs. Various psychological consequences are being recognized in children who have been victims of manipulation, so it’s important to address this issue early.


If you think you may be dealing with a situation of alienation, please reach out to us. We can help you evaluate the situation, document your evidence, and take important corrective steps.