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Addressing parental alienation in contentious child custody cases in FL, P.1

Previously, we noted that Florida courts are bound by a public policy that parents should have shared parental responsibility unless this would be detrimental to the child. Family courts consider a variety of factors in determining whether a proposed parental responsibility or parenting plan arrangement is in the best interests of the child.

One of the factors family courts consider in making custody and parenting time decisions is the parents’ ability to cooperate with one another and the court in a shared custody and parenting plan. This means looking at whether a parent: has demonstrated an ability to “facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship” with the other parent; communicates truthfully with the court about the other parent and about the other parent’s relationship with the child; and is cooperative in communicating with the other parent. 

Florida law also specifically directs family courts to take into account the ability of each parent to protect the child from ongoing litigation and to avoid making “disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.” Poisoning a child against the other parent is a common tactic in contentious divorce cases, and it can have serious consequences for both the child and the vilified parent. In cases where there is evidence of alienation of parental affection, there can also be serious consequences for the alienating parent.  

When a family court sees credible evidence that a parent is alienating the other parent from a child’s affection, the court will make parental responsibility and parenting plan decisions reflecting these circumstances, with the result that the alienating parent will be met with an unfavorable custody outcome.

In our next post, we’ll say more about this topic, and what can be done when parental alienation arises after parental responsibility and parenting time decisions have already been made with the help of an experienced attorney.

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