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What Happens in a Custody Case Where Both Parents Try to Alienate the Child From the Other Parent and the Rest of Their Family?

My guess is that this question applies in two distinct contexts: 1) what does the court do in a child custody case where both parents try to alienate the child from the other parent and the rest of their family?; and 2) what happens to a child in a custody case where both parents try to alienate the child from the other parent and the rest of their family?

1) What does the court do in a child custody case where both parents try to alienate the child from the other parent and the rest of their family?;

It’s hard when a court has two lousy parents fighting over custody. Neither is bad enough to have his/her parental rights terminated and custody of the child awarded to the other parent, so the court finds itself having to make all kinds of compromises that the court knows are not likely to work.

Rarely can a court do much to help the child effectively. That’s not the court’s fault. Even the most conscientious court cannot compel bad actors to do good (or at least to do good consistently). . .

. . . but that doesn’t mean some courts think themselves an exception. Some judges believe the black robe and gavel magically imbues them with supernatural wisdom and power to make the horse drink. Such orders issued by such judges are rarely obeyed and rarely benefit the child. Indeed, they tend to generate a lot of litigation between the parents over “enforcement” of largely unenforceable orders, and the child often suffers collateral damage.

Other judges don’t want to live with the guilt of wondering, “Did I fail to do everything I could to protect the child from its lousy parents?,” and so they assuage their fears by issuing orders that appear to make the judges look good without those orders doing the child (or his lousy parents) much, if any good, i.e., ordering the parents to read books and watch videos, take “parenting” courses, and/or ordering the parents and children to engage in therapy and counseling.* In fairness, some judges issue such orders not because they believe they will work, not because they want to look compassionate and wise, but because they conclude that it can’t hurt and that such orders may cause the occasional parent to see the light. Fair enough.

2) What happens to a child in a custody case where both parents try to alienate the child from the other parent and the rest of their family?

First, remember that it’s not “parental alienation” if one parent acts shield a child from the harm that a dysfunctional and/or abusive parent would, in the absence of the protection, inflict on a child. Unfit, unrepentant parents forfeit (either legally or practicably) their hopes of and rights to a “relationship” with the children they neglect and/or abuse. Don’t misunderstand me: the ends do not necessarily justify any means, and one cannot be a law unto oneself, but fulfilling parental responsibility is not parental alienation.

So the question really is: what happens in a custody case where both parents who know better try to alienate the child from the other parent and the rest of their family? And the answer to that question is: the child is emotionally and psychologically abused grossly. All but the most exceptional children suffer the consequences of this heinous emotional and psychological abuse throughout the rest of their lives. Many (frankly most) who reach adulthood and have children of their own will end up being dysfunctional, neglectful, abusive spouses (if they ever marry) and parents themselves. Even the children who seemingly “overcome” or adjust for this abuse and who manage to live a normal life will, by and large, still suffer from and bear the burdens of the damage and pain.

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*Counseling and therapy can do some people some, even a lot, of good, but forcing counseling and therapy on parents is not nearly as effective as the courts seem to believe.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

(10) Eric Johnson’s answer to What happens in a custody case where both parents try to alienate the child from the other parent and the rest of their family? – Quora

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