Child Custody Alienation Tactics Backfire

April 10, 2014 | Child Custody, Court Decisions, Legal Perspective

Icon for author Brian Vertz Brian Vertz

Parents who are facing custody disputes in Pennsylvania may be interested in understanding how child alienation tactics are viewed by judges in Pennsylvania courts. A recent decision of the Pennsylvania Superior Court (unpublished) illustrates the perils that may befall a parent who engages in alienation tactics.  In B.E. v. D.N., No. 1894 EDA 2013 (April 9, 2014), a mother lost custody of her children, ages 12 and 9, when the court found in 2010 that she had alienated the children from their father, resulting in psychological damage. Mother had coached the kids to hate their father, refuse to eat his food, spit on him and kick him, and be disrespectful in every way. When custody was taken away from her, Mother agreed to comply with a court order to get intensive counseling.

After 31 sessions of counseling, Mother’s attitude improved, and the court allowed her to have primary custody for 60% of the time, with Father having partial custody 40% of the time. The Superior Court vacated that decision, however, finding that the trial court had not articulated its rationale, as required by 23 Pa.C.S. 5328(a).  That law requires judges to explicitly address all sixteen (16) statutory factors in their custody decisions.

The case was remanded to the trial court after the children had lived with Mother for approx. 9 months. The trial court held new hearings and found that Mother had relapsed to her alienating behaviors. Mother discontinued her therapy as soon as she got custody back, and she became uncooperative with Father. A court-appointed psychologist recommended that the children be returned to Father, and the trial court agreed. Mother filed another appeal, and this time, the Superior Court sided with Father, affirming the decision.

A Pittsburgh family lawyer with experience in child custody litigation may assist parents who encounter child alienation to expose these tactics in court and obtain appropriate relief.

Source: Superior Court of Pennsylvania, B.E. v. D.N., No. 1894 EDA 2013, April 9, 2014

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