Disputes over legal custody of children can turn ugly. It is not uncommon for Minnesota judges handling custody dispute cases to be confronted by allegations of child abuse against one of the parents. When the allegations are supported by the testimony of the children, parental alienation is frequently raised as a defense. In effect, a parent claims that the children have been manipulated or brainwashed into making false allegations in order to give the other parent an advantage in the case.
Those experts who support the idea that parental alienation actually exists argue that it is possible for one parent to cause a child to turn against the other parent. Generally, this might cause a child to avoid contact with or misbehave when in the presence of the parent due to the influence of the other parent. In extreme cases, the same experts assert that a child could be influenced to make false allegations of child abuse against a parent.
Although other medical experts dispute the existence of parental alienation, there is a concern that judges could be influenced to award child custody to the party claiming parental alienation. One study of 240 cases in which there was a custody dispute found that child custody was granted to the parent accused of child abuse. The conclusion of those conducting the study was that the decisions in the cases were based upon the belief the allegations of abuse were the result of parental alienation.
Judges deciding child custody cases are supposed to be guided by evidence showing what is in the best interests of the child. A parent involved in a custody dispute might benefit from the legal advice and courtroom skills of a family law attorney about the type of evidence needed in a particular case.