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Understanding estrangement, alienation during divorce

Getting divorced does not make anyone less of a parent. It does not change your parental rights and it is not an indication that you do not love your children.

That being said, divorce does change the logistics of parenting. Parents often spend less time with their children as they divide time; schedules change; children have their own emotional responses to the divorce. Often, this can lead to temporary challenges and frustrations. However, it can also lead to bigger problems of estrangement and alienation.

Estrangement vs. alienation

Parental estrangement occurs when a child and the parent fight or do not get along. A child may be angry at the parent for reasons related to the divorce or feel less connected for one reason or another, and may not want to spend time with the estranged parent.

Alienation, on the other hand, stems from a parent's efforts to purposefully cause damage to the relationship between a child and the other parent. This can happen when a parent speaks badly about the other parent and tries to keep them from spending time together.

Dealing with these difficult issues

When a parent and child are not spending time together after divorce, it is important to remedy the situation sooner, rather than later. The longer these strained relationships go on, the harder it can be to repair the damage and rebuild the relationship. 

Often, prioritizing time together and seeking counseling (for both parents and children) can help.

However, there may be a need for the courts to step in. Recently, for instance, a judge ordered actress Angelina Jolie to make an effort to improve the relationship between her children and their father, actor Brad Pitt. The former couple is going through a divorce, and reports suggest that Jolie could lose primary custody if does not comply with visitation schedules or permit the children to communicate easily and openly with their father.

If you have concerns about parental estrangement or alienation, it can be crucial to discuss them with your attorney as soon as possible. Whether you adjust parenting schedules to increase time with your children or you go to court seeking more aggressive enforcement measures, legal counsel can be critical in pursuing a fair outcome.

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