Parental Alienation in South Carolina Family Court
Written by: Megan Dell
There are frequently allegations of parental alienation in South Carolina Family Court. It is one of the most complicated concepts to untangle in child custody cases.
Parental alienation is the process by which a child’s relationship with one parent becomes broken, sometimes with the encouragement of the other parent.
Parental Alienation Laws
S.C. Code Ann. Section 63-15-240(B) lists factors the Family Court must consider when determining a child’s best interest. Though parental alienation is not specifically listed, the Family Court is required to consider “the actions of each parent to encourage the continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent.” This provision allows allegations of parental alienation to be raised in South Carolina Family Court cases.
The only published South Carolina case that recognizes the dynamic of parental alienation is Noojin v. Noojin, 417 S.C. 300 (Ct. App. 2016). In that case, a mother was held in contempt of court for denying visitation between the children and their father when the children did not want to attend, as the mother did not want to “force” the children to attend.
Spotting Parental Alienation
Making an allegation of parental alienation is not difficult, but it is much harder to accurately identify when alienation is actually occurring. Here are some indicators that a child could be alienated from a parent borrowed from the book “Overcoming Parent-Child Contact Problems.”
Behaviors by the Child
- Demonstrates inconsistency between statements or allegations about the rejected parent and behavior with the rejected parent
- Has rigid, one-sided, “all good or all bad” opinion of each parent; idealizes one parent and devalues the other; refuses or is reticent to consider alternate views or explanations about one or both parents
- Gives weak, trivial, frivolous, unelaborated, false, and irrational reasons to justify dislike, hatred, resistance, or rejection
- Call rejected parent by their first name
- Blames rejected parent for the end of the parents’ romantic relationship
Behaviors by the Preferred Parent
- Seems humiliated by the end of the parents’ romantic relationship
- Bad mouths or denigrates the other parent’s qualities, parenting, or involvement with the child
- Acts fearful or suspicious of the other parent in front of the child
- Fosters child’s dependency on and need for them to serve as protector from the rejected parent
- Minimizes actual and symbolic contact between child and the other parent
- Insists that the child has the right to make decisions about contact with the rejected parent; empowers the child by telling them “it’s up to you”
Behaviors by the Alienated Parent
- Has lax or intermittently rigid or punitive parenting style
- Shows outrage at the child challenging their authority
- Is passive or withdraws in the face of conflict
- Is immature or self-centered in relation to the child
- Loses temper; exhibits angry, demanding, or intimidating character traits, but not to the level of abuse
- Loses hope that anything or anyone can change child’s new belief system about him or her
- Lacks empathic connection to child
- Challenges child’s beliefs or attitudes and tries to convince them otherwise
Resources for Managing Parental Alienation
Our custody attorneys constantly review new materials on how to manage parental alienation. Unfortunately, many of the available resources are expensive treatment programs that are impractical for most families.
The best, most accessible resource we have found is the book “Overcoming the Co-Parenting Trap: Essential Parenting Skills When a Child Resists a Parent.” It is written by mental health professionals who help families recover from parental alienation and provides tips for how to manage alienation behaviors.
If you are dealing with parental alienation in South Carolina Family Court, it is imperative to have a lawyer familiar it like the attorneys of Dell Family Law. Schedule a consultation to find out how you can best litigate a claim of parental alienation.