Children caught in the middle of contentious custody battles between divorcing parents can sometimes become victims of parental alienation.
In a case that grabbed nationwide attention this past summer, a judge in Oakland County, Michigan held three kids — ages 9, 10 and 15 — in contempt of court for refusing to meet with their estranged father. During a June 24 hearing to arrange parental visitation, Judge Lisa Gorcyca decided to send the kids to Children’s Village, a juvenile detention facility.
At their father’s request, they were released from the center on July 10 and sent to a two-week summer camp, where both parents will be allowed to visit them. Gorcyca said her decision was in the “children’s best interests.”
The judge’s controversial move has ignited public outrage. However, Gorcyca claims she was trying to help the children out of concern for their welfare as they were being “brainwashed.” According to court transcripts, she blamed their mother for alienating the kids from their father and not living up to the terms of the couple’s shared custody arrangement.
The children’s parents have been embroiled in a bitter divorce since 2009, failing to reach common ground during dozens of court appearances for issues such as therapy and parenting time. The mother has physical custody of the kids, while the dad sees them during supervised visits.
Each parent claimed the other is trying to turn the children against them. The father’s lawyer contended his ex-wife violates court orders and did not allow the children to see him, while the mother’s attorney said that she fears for the children’s safety. William Lanset, the guardian ad litem representing the kids, is in agreement with the father’s attorney, arguing that the mother’s actions are a form of parental alienation.
What does all this mean? Well, child custody disputes can be very stressful. In cases of parental alienation in divorces, one parent repeatedly presents a negative view of the other to the child, so that the child no longer wants to spend time with the other parent. Such actions destroy the crucial parent-child relationship rather than strengthening it, and the child ends up suffering as a result. When dealing with claims of parental alienation, it is essential for the court to determine the reason behind the child’s alienation and listen to what he or she has to say. Then, steps can be taken toward mending the broken relationship in order to establish both parents’ roles in raising the child. It is important to understand that dealing with and undoing parental alienation issues is a long, difficult, and complicated process.
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Gerald A. Maggio is an experienced Orange County divorce and family law lawyer and family law attorney located in Irvine, California, serving the Orange County and Riverside areas. Mr. Maggio assists clients with legal issues including divorce, legal separation, divorce mediation, child custody, prenuptial agreements, stepparent adoptions, and other family law issues. Mr. Maggio has practiced law in California since 1999, and founded The Maggio Law Firm in 2005, focusing exclusively on divorce and family law matters.