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Recognition of Alienating Behaviors - Mild

Recognizing the mild form of alienating behavior is tricky because the behavior itself is often subtle and because the alienating parent will deny both motivation and acts and often will make sincere statements to her attorneys and the court that reflect a regard for the children's needs for the other parent and a respect for the unique role the other parent has to play in the life and development of the child.

Although such statements are sincerely meant, the alienating parent's view of the other parent is compromised at this stage, as indicated by her behavior. She\he is not aware of the beliefs and feelings that motivate her unintentional alienating behavior (internal) or of the effect that her statements and behavior can have on the child (interactional). Her feeling, emotions and beliefs about the other parent are largely unconscious or subconscious at this stage.

Because the statements of the alienating parent will not give the lawyers or the courts clues that there is alienation in process, it is important to look at the underlying messages that are given directly to the child. In this milder form there is less polarization of the external sources of the divorce impasse system (attorneys, courts). The communications to the child of the regard with which the other parent is held is the key to detecting alienating behavior.

Examples of mild forms of alienating behavior include:

  • Little regard for the importance of visitation/ contact with the other parent:
    • "You're welcome to visit with Mom; you make the choice; I won't force you."
    • No encouragement of visits;
    • No concern over missed visits;
    • No interest in the child's activities or experiences during visitation (in a positive manner);

  • Lack of value regarding communication between visits:
    • No encouragement of communication between visits;
    • Little awareness of the distress a child may feel if a visit or phone call is missed.

  • Inability to tolerate the presence of the other parent even at events important to the child;
    • "I won't go to any soccer games if your mother is there."

  • Disregard for the importance of the relationship to the child:
    • Displaying a willingness to apply for and accept a new job away from the other parent, without regard to the child's relationship with that parent.

At this stage alienation is most likely to become obvious during family system transition times, such as when children leave one home and go to another, when one parent remarries or has another child. The knowledge that a child needs the other parent may be present, but this rational belief may become overwhelmed by internal and interactional problems at this phase.

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If the court believes there is a chance for reconciliation, they can require that the couple seek marriage counseling. Since each case is handled according to its own unique scenario, there is no set length defined by New Hampshire law for the counseling sessions.
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