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What is Parental Alienation?

Child custody issues can be contentious and stressful for parents and children alike. However, when parents have a strained or adversarial relationship with each other, things can be even more difficult. “Parental alienation” is the term for when one parent actively undermines the child’s relationship with the other parent by denigrating the other parent in front of the child. In essence, parental alienation means one parent is taking calculated steps to isolate the child from the other parent through words and conduct. These actions create a division between the child and the other parent, and serious alienation can cause estrangement or even hostility between the child and the other parent. Parental alienation is particularly troubling because it can have long-term, harmful psychological effects on the child. By repeatedly keeping the child away from the other parent or telling them that the other parent does not want to see them, the child’s future relationship with the other parent will be forever altered. Parental alienation does not always come in the form of direct parent-to-child conversations. Examples of parental alienation include: Parent-to-child comments that speak negatively of the other parent. This may include blaming the other parent for the divorce or separation, saying the other parent does not love the child, or making harsh criticism of the other parent’s conduct. Allowing others to make negative comments about the other parent in front of the child. These comments most often come from grandparents or siblings. Involving the child in the divorce/custody case unnecessarily is another form of parental alienation. One parent may share false or distorted details about the case or falsify...

Is Your Child Adjusting to the Divorce?

During a divorce a parent’s first priority is usually to make sure that their child is processing everything in a healthy way. They do their best to inform their child or children of what is to be expected during the divorce process, and they remind their children that their parent’s love them no matter what. After the divorce is finalized, the parens probably feel relieved and as if everything can finally settle down. For the child, however, the time after the divorce is equally important to their adjustment. It is important for parents to pay attention to subtle signs that indicate if their child is coping positively. Here are a few signs that usually mean your child is coping with the divorce: Your child is maintaining their own personal behaviors and routine Your child seeks affection from both your and your spouse Your child is empathetic to other children or pets Your child expresses excitement about the future and upcoming events Your child is staying involved with activities and friends Your child is maintaining their grades and handling their school work You child is talking with and asking questions of both of the parents If you feel your child is not exhibiting these signs, they may not be adjusting positively. Talk with your child about the divorce and enlist the help of a child therapist if necessary. Luckily, in addition to utilizing a therapist, there are many things a parent can do to help their child adjust. Family therapist Isolina Ricci, PhD, offers up several tips on how parents can help children cope. There are a few things to...
Conservatorship Basics

Conservatorship Basics

In a conservatorship, a person is appointed by a judge to organize and take care of another person’s financial or personal needs. The person who is appointed to take care of a person’s affairs is called a conservator, and the person being taken care of is called the conservatee. A conservator is appointed usually when someone who does not have power of attorney for health care or durable power of attorney for financial matters cannot take care of their personal care of finances. There can be several kinds of conservatorships, but commonly there is conservatorship of the person and conservatorship of the estate. Conservatorship of the person is for when a person cannot provide for their personal health, food, clothing, or shelter. A judge appoints a conservator to assist them, and also limits the powers given to the conservator to appropriately meet the needs of the conservatee. For instance, the conservatee still has the right to get married, vote, consent to medical treatment, or make a will, unless the judge decides otherwise. In conservatorship of the state, a judge appoints a person to help someone take care of their financial matters. In California, a judge can appoint a conservator for someone who is “substantially unable to manage his or her financial resources or resist fraud or undue influence.” A person who occasionally shows negligence will not be appointed a conservator, rather, they would have to show that they are consistently unfit to manage their own finances. In conservatorship of the state, the conservatee does not have the legal capacity to enter into any transactions that affect their financial situation,...
What is the difference between guardianship and adoption?

What is the difference between guardianship and adoption?

There are times when circumstances dictate that the care or custody of a child has to be the responsibility of somebody who is not that child’s parents. Often, this person is another family member – a grandparent, an older sibling, an aunt or uncle, and so forth – though sometimes this person is not related to the child. In general, there are two distinct possibilities when custody of a child is transferred away from that child’s parents and to another – Guardianship and Adoption. In an Adoption, a person or a couple takes over all parental rights and responsibilities for a child, replacing that child’s biological parents entirely. Legally, once an adoption has been finalized the child’s adoptive parents are premanently considered the child’s parents, and they are treated exactly as the child’s birth family. Custody, legal decisions, and inheritance are all treated exactly as they would be in any other family, and the court does not supervise or otherwise intervene in an adoptive parent’s relationship with their adopted child – unless there is some evidence of parental wrongdoing, which is handled the same way as it would be handled if the parents were biological. A guardianship, however, can be more complex. Like an adoption, in a guardianship a child is living with an adult who is not their biological parent, but this person is not legally considered a replacement for the child’s parents. Guardians are responsible for the care and well being of the children in their care, and are empowered by the court to make decisions regarding the best interests of the child, but often guardians are...

Medical Marijuana and Child Custoday

“But I have a medical marijuana card.” More and more the issue of medical marijuana use is raised when dealing with child custody battles and whether the medical marijuana user would be entitled to an equal child visitation parenting plan, or something less.  California and thirteen other states have made medical marijuana use legal, but many family law judges are continuing to look at the “best interest of the child” standard, and marijuana use becomes a personal, subjective issue. Clearly, there is a division between those who support medical marijuana and those who do not.  Parents and activists who support the use argue that no parent should be punished for using a legal, doctor-recommendation to treat their medical condition.  The argument stands that, medical marijuana use is no different than prescription medication use, used to treat medical conditions. The other side of the coin, which is heavily supported by social workers, mediators, and many judges, oppose having children exposed to marijuana for any reason.  Some family law judges recognize the law and treat medical marijuana like any other prescription or like alcohol and make orders to refrain from use prior to and while exercising child visitation.  Other judges have demanded letters from the treating physician, explaining that all other medical avenues have failed, and medical marijuana is the last and only resort, thereby giving in to the use with very strict provisions in the child custody orders. Typical child custody / child visitation order have provisions that neither parent will consume alcohol (or excessive alcohol) within so many hours prior to the child’s arrival, nor during the visit.  These...

Mixing Religions and Child Visitation

Faith-Mixing & Children We live in a society where inter-racial marriages and inter-faith couples are the norm.  Seeing a man and woman in a committed relationship, whether married or not, is no longer reserved to those of the same race, nationality, ethnicity, heritage, culture, or religion.  But subjecting children to the combination of two polar opposite lives at the time of divorce, and expecting peace and harmony, is nonsense. When we adults meet, whether it’s love at first sight or a prolonged encounter over months of interaction with the other person, we seldom discuss issues that will impact our children forever.  More often, people become parents without discussing important issues like, how are we going to raise our child?  When mom is Jewish and dad is Catholic; or when dad is Muslim and mom is Christian; or when one parent is Jehovah Witness and the other is agnostic, which faith does the child follow during a child custody battle? Parents have a First Amendment right under the United States Constitution to practice the religion of their choice.  But the Court is often caught in the middle; trying to determine the “best interest of the child,” while balancing the competing concerns of the religious beliefs of the parents.  Sometimes, the Court will defer to the child’s wishes or the child’s past practices.  Because the United States Supreme Court has not yet decided a case involving religious upbringing and child custody, there is no uniform law that California must follow. However, there are three standards that are accepted nationwide and other states have handled some of these issues.  If there is...