Parental Alienation in Connecticut Divorce

This Week’s Blog by Christopher J. DeMattie.

What is Parental Alienation?

 Alienating Behavior is defined as an action by a parent which threatens the relationship between a child and a parent.

Parental Alienation has been defined as: “circumstance where one parent portrays the other parent in a negative light, and the child takes note of such portrayal. The child has less or no contact with the alienated parent based on the perception put forth by the other parent.” In re Jaime S., 120 Conn. App. 712, 726–28 (2010).

Thus, the difference between Alienating Behavior and Parental Alienation is for there to be Parental Alienation, alienating behaviors must result in the child having less or no contact with the parent being alienated.

Some examples of Alienating Behavior are:

  1. Unreasonably calling the police on the other parent;
  1. Unreasonably calling the Department of Children and Families (DCF) on the other parent;
  1. Abducting a child;
  1. Preventing parenting time;
  1. Severing communication between a parent and child; or
  1. Telling a child to lie to disrupt parenting time.

Do Connecticut Family Courts Recognize Parental Alienation Syndrome?

 The short answer is no. The Court in Mastrangelo v. Mastrangelo, No. NNHFA054012782S, 2012 WL 6901161, held: “the concept of ‘parental alienation syndrome’ does not meet the relevant standards.” The Court based its reasoning in part that: “the concept of ‘parental alienation syndrome’ is not recognized as a disorder by the medical or legal communities and the theory and related research have been extensively criticized by legal and mental health scholars for lacking scientific validity and reliability.”

How does Parental Alienation Impact my Connecticut Divorce?

 Even though Parental Alienation Syndrome is not recognized by Connecticut Family Courts, the underlying actions or behavior by a parent may have a major impact on your divorce, especially concerning issues of legal custody and parenting time. When entering orders relative to custody, care, education, or visitation, the Court is governed by Connecticut General Statutes §46b-56. Specifically, the Court shall consider the best interest of the child and sixteen factors are listed, which the Court may consider. Of the sixteen factors, three relate directly to the issues of Alienating Behavior and Parental Alienation. Specifically: “…(6) the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage such continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent as is appropriate, including compliance with any court orders; (7) any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents in an effort to involve the child in the parents’ dispute; …(12) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability of a proposed custodial parent or other party, in and of itself, shall not be determinative of custody unless the proposed custodial arrangement is not in the best interests of the child;…”

If you believe your spouse is attempting to alienate the children from you, it is important to contemporaneously document the alienating behavior as best you can. For example, if your spouse is making it difficult for you to spend time or communicate with your children, it will be beneficial to make requests in writing (email is preferable to text messages) requesting dates and times to spend with your children and/ or talk to them. This way you will be able to prove that you made the requests and your spouse’s responses (good or bad) could end up as evidence as well.

Broder & Orland LLC, with offices in Westport and Greenwich, CT, concentrates specifically in the areas of family law, matrimonial law and divorce. As experienced divorce and custody trial lawyers we understand how to effectively prosecute and defend cases involving Parental Alienation to the Court, as well as how to retain the necessary consultants and/or experts for your case.