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Parental alienation in Illinois family law cases

One of the unfortunate reactions children may have when their parents divorce or separate is called parental alienation syndrome. Children may experience this reaction on their own or due to the encouragement of a parent. Alienated children express hostile feelings towards the parent who is the target.

There are several ways PAS manifests itself. Children may express hatred and fear of a parent and may deny any past good experiences that they have had with the parent. This can happen suddenly, with a parent being loved one day and then hated the next. When children are questioned, they may give bizarre reasons for their hostility, such as a dislike of their parent's appearance or other things that should have no bearing on the child's relationship with them. They may also make accusations that make no sense and that are obviously untrue.

By contrast, the child who has been encouraged to alienate the other parent will idealize the parent who is alienating. They may act like that parent is perfect while the other is wholly imperfect. If confronted about the alienation, children will generally say it was their own independent decision, denying the alienating parent's influence. They will also demonstrate a lack of guilt about their treatment of the alienated parent and will always take the alienating parent's side in disputes.

If a parent in a child custody dispute notices signs that the other parent is taking active steps to alienate their child from them, they may want to notify their family law attorney about their observations. An attorney might help by seeking an order from the court for a psychological examination. Courts find parental alienation strategies to reflect poorly on the alienating parent, and if the parent is found to be engaging in such behavior, the court may take that into account when making its custody determination.

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