Most Common Examples of Parental Alienation in Colorado 2023

May 12, 2023

 Parental AlienationParental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a mental disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a form of psycho-social pathology. It often becomes noticeable during divorce because it is exacerbated by legal proceedings, but it is not caused by divorce or limited to those involved in a divorce. In divorce cases, it is especially difficult for mental health professionals, as well as lawyers, to assist families in negotiating terms of divorce and custody.

Psychological Foundations of Parental Alienation

There is a great deal of psychological and emotional turmoil that is at play in cases of parental alienation, and it causes serious harm to both children and parents. Alienating parents manipulate the child, as well as social and legal systems, to push their agenda, though they may not know they are doing so. They make wild accusations against the other parent (the alienated parent, also called the target parent) to avoid going through the psychological hardships of internal conflict, damaged self-esteem, and other feelings that are otherwise normal responses in grieving interpersonal loss, such as a marriage. 

Children rely on their parents and other adults in their lives to shape their cognitive understanding of the world. When a parent shares a distorted and negative perception of the target parent with the child, the child then begins to assume the distorted reality as truth. This is the underlying foundation of parental alienation, which is just the beginning of many short-term and long-term effects on all involved. For this reason, it is a very dangerous behavior. Preliminary signs that parental alienation is occurring are observed as instances including or similar to the following behaviors as observed in the parent suspected of alienating:

  • Withholding the targeted parent’s birthday gifts or other holiday gifts from the child
  • Preventing the child from speaking over the phone or visiting with the target parent by telling the target parent the child is unavailable when they call or visit
  • Not telling the target parent about important events on the child’s social or school calendar
  • Blaming everything that goes wrong on the target parent
  • Telling the child lies about the target parent, convincing the child the target parent doesn’t love the child, or making other derogatory comments about the target parent to the child
  • Making false allegations or creating a false story that tells of a negative reality to tarnish the target parent’s reputation
  • Making the child choose between the target parent and themself
  • Teaching the child not to obey the target parent

Some examples of deeper behavioral interactions between a parent and a child that are observable as parental alienation include:

  • One parent forges a negative impression on the child about the other parent.
  • A child, being old enough to have their own opinion, refuses to visit the target parent, or a younger child begins to show signs of distress and separation anxiety from the other parent.
  • The alienating parent prevents contact with the target parent by means of moving away or engaging in repeated litigation that is aimed at further estranging the alienating parent from the child. This is typically accompanied by anger, mislabeled fear, and seemingly protective behavior toward the child. The child then mirrors these attitudes, more so in older children, who can show these behaviors rather intensely. The child’s behaviors are then used to justify the alienation of the other parent, though the seeds were planted by the alienating parent.
  • Alienation is sometimes wrongly justified by accusations toward the target parent that their immoral or irresponsible conduct is dangerous to the child or that separating the child from the alienating parent will cause irreversible trauma to the child.
  • The alienating parent also often uses the argument for a need for justice. However, in the mind of the alienating parent, there is little distinction between justice and revenge.
  • The need for a child to have a relationship with two parents is not acknowledged.
  • The alienating parent can be very convincing when the target parent or anyone attempts to challenge their accusations, claiming the other parent is lying or brainwashing them. The alienating parent then actively seeks the opinions of more professionals in an attempt to prove their accusations if professionals claim there is no underlying problem.


Q: Does CO Recognize Parental Alienation?

A: Colorado recognizes that alienating parents may manipulate children. Many times, it is seen as a form of child abuse. While it is recognized, it must be proven for the alienating parent to lose custody of the child. If the target parent can prove that the other parent is alienating, that parent is often deemed unfit to care for the child, and custody is awarded to the target parent.

Q: What Is Severe Parental Alienation?

A: Severe parental alienation can lead to blind hatred of the target parent by the child. More severe consequences occur in children who lose the capacity to give and receive love from one of their parents. Some effects of this include low self-esteem, lack of trust, self-hatred, depression, and substance abuse disorder. Behavior and conduct issues can also arise, as well as feelings of anger, guilt, grief, and overall disconnection in general.

Q: What Are the Five Factors of Parental Alienation?

A: The five-factor model for diagnosing parental alienation syndrome includes:

  • The child refuses a relationship with one of the parents
  • There was a prior positive relationship between the child and the now-rejected parent.
  • There was no prior presence of abuse, neglect, or bad parenting of the child by the now-rejected parent.
  • The favored parent exhibits multiple alienating behaviors.
  • The child shows signs of many of the eight behavioral manifestations of alienation.

Q: Is One Parent More Likely to Be Alienated From Their Children Than the Other?

A: Because mothers are typically more likely to be the primary parent or have custody of the child, mothers are twice as likely to cause alienation from the other parent. However, as more fathers are being awarded custody, this imbalance may change in the future.

Legally Proving Parental Alienation

Parental alienation is a problem across the country and in Colorado family courts, as well. It’s not an easy defense to prove, but it is possible with the right resources and family law attorneys. At Johnson Law Group, we have experience proving parental alienation. If you believe you are the target of parental alienation, the sooner you act, the better. Call the qualified legal team at Johnson Law Group to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

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Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
Divorce doesn’t have to be dramatic. For the litigants, losing your spouse is significant enough. But you can choose the way it affects your daily life. The only guarantee I can give is that the feeling that you have right now will not be the feeling you end with. This is a season in your life, and it must be approached that way.
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