Have you noticed a recurring sign of parental alienation? Being alienated from your child due to the actions of another parent can have a long-lasting negative impact on you, your child and your relationship. Even during or after a divorce, your former spouse should not malign your character in front of your child and should stick to your custody agreement, which is essential for ensuring you can maintain a relationship with your child.
This guide covers how parental alienation is defined in South Carolina, how parental alienation affects custody and how you and your family law attorney can prove parental alienation.
How Is Parental Alienation Defined in South Carolina?
Parental alienation refers to the loss or damage of a relationship between a parent and child. This alienation could occur for numerous reasons, such as a parent’s drug use, abuse, divorce or manipulation by another parent. Regardless of the cause, parental alienation implies a serious strain on, or even lack of, the relationship between the parent and child, which should be addressed immediately.
Although not strictly illegal, unless breaking the terms of a custody agreement, intentional parental alienation involves the actions of one spouse against the other. The intent is typically to sever the child’s relationship with the other parent by:
- Saying negative things about the other parent in front of or to the child
- Preventing the child’s communication with the other parent
- Preventing the child from spending time with the other parent
Proving Parental Alienation in Charleston SC
Proving parental alienation allegations can be very challenging since the actions are often committed in private with the child as the only witness. Although South Carolina law does allow children to testify if they are able to understand that they must tell the truth, family law courts are understandably reluctant to place children on the stand in the midst of custody battles.
However, there are some actions that are more easily proven. You can, for example, document any times when your spouse cancels, misses without explanation or is late in allowing you to spend time with your child. You can similarly document missed phone calls.
It will still be challenging to prove that parental alienation has occurred, so be certain to consult an attorney who can help you to create a solid case that will help you to establish a relationship with your child.
How Parental Alienation Affects Custody
When determining custody of a child, South Carolina law requires that the courts consider the best interests of the child by taking into account numerous factors, including parental relationships. In fact, the law specifically requires that the court takes into consideration:
- Past and current relationships with the proposed guardians
- Each guardian’s encouragement of the child to maintain a relationship with the other parent
- Whether or not the guardians have involved the child in their disputes or maligned the other guardian in front of the child
If the court determines that one parent has caused the alienation of a child from the other parent, it can choose to limit or eliminate that parent’s custody rights.
How to Prove Parental Alienation
If your co-parent is attempting to alienate you and your child, you can take action. Follow the steps below to gather evidence of parental alienation.
1. Find Witnesses
The most obvious witnesses are the children’s parents. Most likely, one parent is the victim of alienation and the other is the perpetrator. Children may also be witnesses or the subject of parental alienation. If therapists are involved or other family members have witnessed the alienation, they can offer additional proof for your case.
If a teenager is the subject of parental alienation, they may be better able to articulate the situation, but they may also not recognize that the alienation is occurring or wrong. If this conduct has been going on for years, the teenager may not view the alienating parent’s behavior as wrong. As such, if a teenager is completely alienated from you, they may not be the most helpful witness. In this case, you may need to rely on evidence beyond your child’s testimony.
However, if a teenager has not been completely alienated, they can be an invaluable witness. They can articulate proof of alienation better than younger children. For example, if a divorce occurs when the child is already a teenager and you take action quickly to stop or prove the alienation, the teenager may be more able and willing to testify about what the other parent did or said.
Using a younger child as a witness can be more difficult, as they may not fully understand what has been occurring. Though they may hear disparaging comments from the other parent about you, the situation may be confusing and they may be worried about getting the alienating parent in trouble by speaking up. Further, if the child is too young to understand what is being said or done, they may not be able to offer much, if any, insight into the situation.
2. Collect Documentary Evidence
Beyond finding witnesses who can offer testimony, you may want to collect documentation that offers physical proof of the alienation, including electronic communication between you and the other parent, the other parent’s social media posts and the child’s written communications.
- Electronic communication with your co-parent: Save evidence of the text messages and emails between you and your co-parent. This documentation could prove that your child’s other parent is preventing you from seeing your child. If your child reports that the other parent disparaged you, you can also ask via text for them to explain what they said to the child. Ensure you save all communication, as a pattern of behavior can prove parental alienation.
- Your former partner’s social media posts: Oversharing occurs frequently on social media, and you may find that your child’s other parent says disparaging things about you on their social media accounts. They may even admit to the disparagement online by discussing conversations they had with your child.
- Your child’s written communications: If your child keeps a journal or they have a phone or computer on which they send texts and emails to their friends, you may be able to use these communications as evidence. Your child may record in their journal what the other parent said or did, or they may text their friends about what was said or done. These written communications can be very telling about incidents of parental alienation.
3. Hire a Family Law Attorney
A family law attorney can help you gather evidence of parental alienation. Since parental alienation can be so difficult to prove, having an experienced attorney on your side is essential. Your attorney will understand the laws in South Carolina and have experience with similar cases.
Contact an Attorney
If you believe that you are an alienated parent or at risk of parental alienation due to the actions of your spouse or former spouse, don’t hesitate to contact a family law attorney. Lauren Taylor Law can help you to take legal steps to prevent alienation, as well as defend your parental rights. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
South Carolina divorce attorney Lauren Taylor practices family law in Charleston and Greenville. She graduated from the Charlotte School of Law, and has been practicing for more than ten years.
Since the firm’s inception in 2012, Mrs. Taylor has helped hundreds of people navigate the uncertainties surrounding the family and criminal court process.
She has cultivated a team that ensures each case has a strategy crafted specifically to the clients needs and desires.
Her commitment to top notch service has led her to open two additional offices in the low country where she now resides with her husband Michael and her golden retriever, Buster.