How to Combat Parental Alienation | Part 3 of 4


How to Combat Parental Alienation is a four part series for parents and family lawyers.  Part 3 discusses: How to Prove Parental Alienation in Court. Stopping the alienation and reversing the damage.

Part 3:  How to Prove Parental Alienation in Court

How to Prove Parental Alienation in Court

How to Prove Parental Alienation in Court

When collecting evidence, keep two goals in mind – stopping the alienation and reversing the damage. Both involve different levels of evidence gathering. What can a parent do to lawfully collect evidence?

Tip 1: Start a Parenting Journal

Immediately start a parenting journal to record events and observations contemporaneously (date, time, conversation, incident). [1] Consistently document alienating tactics. Did the target text the other parent who did not respond? Document it! The main goal is determining whether this is a parental alienation campaign, so document what the alienating parent is actually doing.

Look for behavioral patterns. Do communications show the aligned parent encouraging the child to be antagonistic, oppositional, obnoxious, or abusive toward the target? Do problems occur at specific times? Does the alienating parent keep scheduling child activities during the target’s parenting time?

Freidman recommends using a communication program designed for split families. These programs and apps date-stamp, calendar, and track all reimbursements and documentation. When the client allows attorney access, his or her lawyer can build a timeline to show the court what occurred and when.

Tip 2: Save All E-Mail and Text Messages

Communications evidence between parties can be enormously helpful in proving parental alienation. Keep all electronic communications between parents, both email and text messages. Save emails in a folder and as pdf and print them out. Use transfer software to transfer SMS (text messages) and MMS (multimedia messages) from smartphone to PC. Back-up to multiple devices in the event the phone gets lost or the hard drive crashes. It happens!

The target of an alienation campaign needs to establish that derogatory statements are habitual. First, document the disparaging remark. Then send an email or text message to the alienating parent asking why the child said it about the target and request an explanation of what was said to the child. The response may be an admission. Silence, or failure to respond, may also be an admission.

Tip 3: Alienating Statements as Hearsay Evidence

When the other parent’s alienating statement was learned from the child, can it be used as evidence in court? Understand that almost all statements made to the child outside one’s presence are hearsay. With limited exception, hearsay evidence is not generally admissible in court to prove the truth of what is being asserted. However, the child may be able to recount the alienating statement:

  1. To the judge directly while in chambers depending upon the child’s age; [2] or
  2. To a forensic psychologist who may rely on hearsay if accepted as an expert witness in the case.[3]

Unlike young children, a teenager could provide witness testimony of parental alienation (assuming the teen has not already been alienated from the target.)

Tip 4: Testimony from Witnesses

Obtain testimony from people who have spent time with the child and have witnessed alienating behavior first hand. Tell the attorney about neighbors, friends, coworkers, coaches, teachers, church members, youth group leaders, librarians, au pairs, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or others who might testify as witnesses or, alternatively, may have information that could lead to direct evidence.

Tip 5: Gather Documentation

Pull school and extracurricular activities records showing a positive relationship with the child in the past. What happened to change things?

Tip 6: Child’s Communications

Use the child’s written communications. Collect the child’s emails and text messages to friends and family. Does the child keep a diary or journal? Use that, too.

Tip 7: Use Social Media

Preserve social media evidence. Take screenshots. What did the alienating parent post? What did the child post about the alienating parent’s statements or actions? A party who disparages the other parent publicly on social media will also likely do so privately to the child.

Tip 8: Take Pictures and Save Scraps

Shoot lots of photographs. Save ticket stubs and receipts in a shoebox. Create a scrapbook. Set up a file system for saving every bit and piece of evidence in the event it is needed later. This is to prove parenting time spent and to counter allegations of never doing things with one’s son or daughter.

Tip 9: Prepare Chronology of Child’s Emotional History

The child’s emotional history with the alienated parent is meaningful. Assemble a chronology to establish a timeline showing the loving child’s move toward rejection. Use available documentation. List dates, events, and observations in order of occurrence.

The realization that parental alienation may be occurring – that the child is being used as a weapon – could come late. Substantial damage to the parent-child relationship may have already occurred. Have reasonable efforts to stop and reverse alienating tactics been ineffective? Has the pendulum swung toward court intervention? Filing an action may be necessary.

 

Continue reading: How to Combat Parental Alienation

Endnotes:

[1] For more discussion about parenting journals, see https://memphisdivorce.com/tennessee-child-custody/parenting-journals-for-moms-and-dads-about-all-things-children/ for information about parenting journals.

[2] Tennessee Juvenile Court Rules, Rule 306: Taking Children’s Testimony.

[3] Tennessee Rules of Evidence, Rule 703: Bases of Opinion Testimony By Experts.

Copyright © 2020 Miles Mason Family Law Group, PLC   - Disclaimer