Parental Alienation Issues in the Texas Family Courts

Parental Alienation are destructive actions by an alienating parent to discredit and sabotage the target parent in the eyes of the child. This will eventually cause increased hostility and decreased contact with the child and the target parent. The alienating parent programs the child to believe that the target parent is mean, unloving, worthless and selfish, and makes the child believe that he/she will be happier if the targeted parent is erased from his/her life.

Since the American Psychiatric Association does not formally recognize Parental Alienation Syndrome/Disorder, The State of Texas does not provide legal standards to evaluate a parental alienation presence in a child. Texas courts have started to act when there is suspected parental alienation. Some of the aids are courts appointing guardians ad litem, parenting facilitators and forensic psychologists used to study the child’s living situations and mental health of both parents and the child. Reports from these specialists have been used in making some very important rulings for the benefit of the child and the families in suspected Parental Alienation cases.

What are some symptoms of Parental Alienation by the Alienating Parent?

  1. Interference with the target parent visits. Giving children unhealthy choices when there is no choice about the visit. Not allowing any target parent visits.
  2. Depriving the target parent from information regarding educational, medical and social activities of the child and excluding or not informing the target parent of all of the school, medical, social activities of the child.
  3. Sharing with the child “everything” about the marital relationship with false information to be “honest” with the child. Blaming the target parent of breaking up the family, financial problems, or not loving the child enough to stay, the alienating parent tries to turn the child and his/her anger against the target parent.
  4. Interference with or not supporting contact between the child and the target parent. Listening into telephone conversation or reading all emails, texting, or correspondence between the child and target parent.
  5. Making major unilateral decisions regarding the child without consulting the target parent.
  6. Refusing to let the child take his/her possessions to the target parent’s residence.
  7. Telling the child, in a time of juvenile crisis, that the target parent has been abusive and the target parent may hurt the child.
  8. By defying the target parent’s authority and supervision, the alienating parent is asking the child to impossibly choose one parent over the other. This causes considerable stress and potential long term emotion scarring for the child and much unnecessary pain, difficulty, and anxiety when trying to love both parents.

The alienating parent will try to program the child to dislike, hate, or fear the target parent. By causing the child to disown or distance themselves away from the target parent, the alienating parent may, in the end, cause a very distrustful and emotionally scarred child. The goal may be achieved, but not with the desired results of the alienating parent. Many times, the child, without hope, will turn on both parents and never be able to have trusting, loving relationships in his/her life.

Interstate Jurisdiction – Multi State Confusion in Child Custody Disputes

Child custody issues can be difficult for the parties involved at any time, but when the custody case crosses a state line, Dallas family law attorney Mark Nacol warns that many more conflicts and problems may arise.

Most states follow a uniform law regarding determination of appropriate state jurisdiction in custody matters known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and related statutes laws which enforce or set procedures regarding proper jurisdiction such as the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act.  Texas has adopted these statutes. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act defines which state has or may maintain jurisdiction in a particular case and often mandates that other states recognize decisions handed down by the state determined to have jurisdiction.

The Act states, among other things, that a court may rule on custody issues if the Child:

  • Has continually lived in that state for 6 months or longer
  • Was living in the state before being wrongfully taken elsewhere by a parent seeking custody in another state
  • Has an established relationship with people (family, relatives or teachers), ties, and attachments in the state
  • Has been abandoned: or is safe in current state, but could be in danger of neglect or abuse in the home state

There are a number of core factors involved in determining which state is appropriate to initiate or maintain an existing suit.  Usually, there are only two states involved, but it is possible to have more than two states involved in cases where there is a frequent moving of the parties and or the children.  Generally, any state in which one of the parties and the child has continually resided for a year may establish venue to commence a lawsuit.

The Nacol Law Firm PC represents parents trying to enforce these laws; cases where there is a need to persuade courts to apply the specific, narrow exceptions to these general rules in order to have custody cases heard in the most convenient forum in which the most evidence is available; cases where the child’s home state or other basic questions need to be clarified, and cases where a parent has violated or has been falsely accused of violating these laws.

Supervised Visitation Orders – How Texas Fathers can Return to a Standard Possession Order

I Have Been Ordered, Right or Wrong, Supervised Visitation with My Child –

How Do I Return to a Standard Possession Order?

In a perfect world, parents going through the divorce process work together for the best interest of their child(ren) and are granted possession of the child(ren) approximately fifty (+ or -) percent of the time.  However, issues such as severe parental alienation, drug addiction, mental or physical abuse, neglect, and severe mental illness may force a parent to petition the courts to order limited or supervised visitation.  On some occasions, a parent is regrettably ordered into supervised visitation due to false, inaccurate or misleading information.  Regardless of the circumstances, court ordered supervised visitation is costly, may substantially limit the amount of time a parent is allowed to spend with their child, and can create a difficult and costly transition into a standard possession order.

If the court has ordered supervised visitation seek proper counsel from a qualified attorney as soon as possible.  If a case, rightly or wrongly, has been established for supervised visitation by the evidence or circumstances or court order, you will need to build a case for reinstatement of standard or standard expanded possession as soon as possible.

During a supervised visit it is imperative that you keep any comments on the case to yourself. Avoid giving any opinions on the existing judgment or the supervised visitation order.  Within reason, limit your conversation to what is strictly necessary for the child to have a safe, happy and healthy visit. Be polite and courteous with the monitor even if you develop strong negative feelings regarding him or her.  Continue to enforce the importance of wanting and seeing your child and spending quality time with your child as much as possible.  Never, under any circumstances speak negatively about the other parent to or in the presence of the child or the monitor.  Never, use vulgar or abusive language toward or in the presence of the child or the monitor.  The visitation monitor may be an important asset at future hearings regarding a change from supervised visitation to a standard or expanded possession order.

Make every scheduled visit without fail.  If unable to make a scheduled visit, contact the monitor as soon in advance as possible with an appropriate explanation and request an alternative date.  Bring family members whenever possible and clear it with the visitation monitor prior to their attendance.  Bring cards and gifts, not only from you but from family members.  If visits are going well request off-site visits at a nearby restaurant or park.  Though visits may be costly, the more frequently you are observed in a loving relationship with your child the better the chance of supervised visitation being suspended or terminated all together.

Involve a psychiatrist or qualified counselor in your visitation schedule if at all possible.  Such professionals are key as you begin to build your case for standard possession since they are able to make suggestions to the Court as to how visits are progressing and the manner in which standard possession can be accomplished.

If you have been ordered to have drug or alcohol testing performed, take each test as scheduled and make certain you are free of drugs and alcohol.  A positive drug or alcohol test may place you back at square one and undermine your progress.

If a social study is ordered, dispose of any prescription drugs not needed or which are out of date and put away any alcohol in your home.  Make certain your home is clean and orderly when the evaluation is performed.  In such cases, a qualified professional will come to your home and evaluate the environment as it pertains to the best interest of the child.  If you have been ordered into supervised visitation because of drugs or alcohol it is imperative that these items not be sitting around the home when a social worker is performing his/her evaluation to avoid negative results or an  invalid conclusion.

Keep your child support current at all times! If the supervised visitation is placing a financial strain on your ability to pay child support, have an attorney address modifying your child support obligation in a Motion to Modify.  It is counterproductive to request unsupervised visitation if you are not current in your financial responsibility toward your child.

Some very important tips a non-custodial parent should follow on a supervised visit:

  1. Follow the schedule of your visits to the letter.  Never cancel except for dire emergencies!

  2. Always arrive on time.

  3. Focus totally on your children.  Don’t ask about the custodial parent or exchange information or be judgmental in your comments. This is your time with your children.

  4. Have a game plan on what you will do when talking and spending time with your children. Stay open to suggestion from your children on what they would like to do with you so everyone enjoys the visit.

  5. Talk with your children about what you are doing in your life. Ask about their activities and school, but don’t press for information. Let them know that you are interested in what they care about.

  6. Always keep your word. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep!

  7. Avoid talking about the custodial parent at all times, the divorce, and any court actions.  Keep all conversations light and positive.  This is your time for your children.  Use it to reconnect and enjoy each other.

  8. Do not criticize the custodial parent or make negative comments about the supervised visitation. This is all the time you have with the children.  Love, embrace and enjoy them every moment.

  9. You may not like it, but follow the rules set forth for the supervised visitation.  Respect the process and this may help to encourage the court to change your status to unsupervised visitation.