Parental alienation is a big and important area of child custody cases. While many non-custodial many believe that parental alienation is occuring the question is what can be done about. Under the New York Domestic Relations Law, parental alienation can result in the reduction of child support, but more importantly it can result in the change of custody.
The New York Appellate courts have come to realize that parental alienation is harmful to the child, and therefore could warrant a change of custody. The First Department, in Osbourne v. Regina S., 55 AD3d 465 found that “the mother’s negative attitude and hostility toward the father, as evidenced by her maligning of the father in the child’s presence, the filing of unsubstantiated reports of abuse and neglect against him, and encouraging the child to lie to support her false claims, failed to demonstrate a willingness or ability on her part to facilitate and encourage a close and optimum relationship between the child and his father.” As a result the court changed custody from the mother to the father.
The key to the decision is the understanding that parental alienation is not in the best interests of the child. In the case of Zeis v. Slater, 57 AD3d 793, the Second Department specifically stated that parental alienation is not in the child’s best interests. The court agreed with the Family Court that the mother should lose custody. The court found that the “mother deliberately interfered with the father’s visitation rights, and moreover, denigrated the father in the child’s presence. This conduct is so inconsistent with the child’s best interests that it per se raises a strong probability that the mother is unfit to act as a custodial parent.”
In fact, the courts are so concerned with parental alienation that not only may a custodial parent lose custody, but may also lose unsupervised visitation. In Stewart v. Stewart, 56 AD3d 1218, the court found that as a result of the parental alienation, that supervised visitation was in the child’s best interest.
The point for the custodial parent is to avoid at all costs saying anything that is derogatory about the non-custodial parent to the children. The point for the non-custodial parent is that you can fight back against parental alienation.