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San Diego Parental Alienation Attorneys

Parental Alienation and Child Estrangement

Divorce causes emotional distress and impacts your children in many ways. Messy custody battles may result in parents engaging in conduct that degrades the other parent in front of the children. California's family courts do not approve of either parent attempting to "turn" the child against the other parent. Psychiatrist Richard A. Gardner dubbed this type of behavior "Parental Alienation Syndrome" (PAS) all the way back in 1985. Today, PAS is a recognized problem of contentious coparenting.

If your child has been affected by this type of behavior or you are accused of alienating your child, contact the San Diego child custody lawyers at Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C. today at (858) 458-9500. Parental alienation can cause devastating psychological harm for parents and children, and it may forever affect your relationship with your child. Remember, it is sometimes possible to change a custody agreement because of the improper treatment you have received. In a severe case, parental alienation can be a form of child abuse.


Client Testimonial

"Been very helpful with my custody case dealing with alienation claims. Very thorough, well informed and caring."

- Anonymous from AVVO


Here are answers to some of the questions we get frequently asked by clients. We hope they help you understand parental alienation and what you can do about it.

Q. What is parental alienation?

Q. How does parental alienation occur?

Q. What are the warning signs of parental alienation?

Q. How is parental alienation handled by the San Diego courts?

Q. Should you do something?

Q. What can I do about parental alienation in San Diego?

Q. How does Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C. combat parental alienation?




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Q. What is parental alienation?

Parental alienation is a deliberate effort by one parent to cause the child to withdraw from or reject the other parent. Parents who indulge in this type of behavior may use harmful words or conduct to create a division between the other parent and the child. They may create estrangement or even hostility between the child and the victimized parent.

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Q. How does parental alienation occur?

The perpetrating parent may use many methods that cause the child to completely withdraw from the other parent, such as:

  • Disparagements, insults, or derogatory language about the victim parent
  • Undermining the victim parent’s authority
  • Using conditional love to manipulate the child
  • Involving the child in adult issues, such as the details of a divorce
  • Forcing the child to choose who they want to live with
  • Improper parental substitution, such as asking a child to call the perpetrating parent’s partner “dad” or “mom” when the victim parent is still alive and in the child’s life
  • Lying to the child about the victim parent
  • False allegations of domestic violence or child abuse
  • Enforcing the parental schedule to hurt the victim parent
  • Asking the children to choose one parent over the other

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Q. What are the warning signs of parental alienation?

Parental alienation may start small after a divorce or separation and not be immediately apparent, but these are some of the signs that can help you identify it:

  • The child shows a sudden negative change in attitude toward one parent
  • The child perceives one parent as the cause of all problems
  • The child has knowledge of private details related to the legal aspects of the divorce
  • The child appears uneasy around one parent
  • The child is unhappy, withdrawn, or depressed while at the same time withdrawing from a parent

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Q. How is parental alienation handled by the San Diego courts?

California courts have acknowledged parental alienation as a real problem; however, such cases are not assumed and must be established to the court. Typically, an attorney who specializes in parental alienation cases will put together a case plan establishing the alienation by evidence. To effectively bring an accusation of parental alienation before a San Diego court, a family law attorney may utilize expert witnesses like:

  • Family members
  • Testimony by child psychologists or therapists
  • Child custody evaluators
  • Minor’s council

In addition to witnesses, an attorney may utilize relevant social media posts, text messages, voice mails, letters, holiday cards, and any other physical or digital communication between the perpetrating parent and a child. Some of this information is readily available, such as public social media posts or messages made over the victim parent’s cellular plan, however other communications may require a subpoena from a judge.

In cases where alienation is severe, the only resolution is to remove the child from the home of the alienating parent and place them with the victim parent. It is critical for the victim or alienated parent to push the court for quicker action because the longer the delay, the more the alienation will grow, and it may have lifelong aftereffects. Psychologists have pushed for the court system to acknowledge parental alienation as a form of abuse, not just for the child, but also for the victim parent, as stated by researchers at Colorado State University. Taking legal action is imperative to minimizing the damage it does to the parent-child relationship.

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Q. Should you do something?

YES. If you are worried that your children are being alienated from you, you need to take immediate action. Alienation is a form of abuse and it must be stopped. Parental alienation can cause devastating psychological harm for parents and children, and it may forever affect your relationship with your child.

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Q. What can I do about parental alienation in San Diego?

Contact an experienced San Diego family law attorney right away to discuss your legal options. Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C. offers free initial consultations. Our family law attorneys can help you protect your rights as a parent and preserve your relationship with your children. Call us at (858) 224-0754.

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Q. How does Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C. combat parental alienation?

Parental alienation is a basis to modify your child custody order in California. The first step in this process is to file a motion to modify child custody. If the alienation is extreme enough, then the court may grant an expedited hearing. At the hearing, the judge can make a temporary modification to the visitation schedule pending a trial to determine if the change should be permanent.

Our founder, Thomas M. Huguenor, will take immediate action against acts of parental alienation. At your initial consultation, he will determine which remedy is best requested from the court, given your particular circumstances. He will get your motions filed as soon as possible, and if appropriate, will request that the hearing date be moved up. He will be sure to include all relevant evidence, such as emails, text messages, and sworn statements, so that the judge is made aware of the situation's severity. Tom has a record of getting results in San Diego child custody cases that other lawyers found impossible.

Help Is Available

Our firm has over 35 years of experience in child custody law. Our founder has been classified as a family law expert by the California State Bar, and we have handled numerous parental alienation cases. We understand how such cases should be presented to the court, and we do not take a "one-size-fits-all approach” - we work to ensure your goals are heard, considered, and appropriately presented.

The future well-being of your child is at risk in an alienation case. Do not wait. Contact our San Diego office today at (858) 458-9500 to schedule your free initial consultation.

Additional Information

(858) 458-9500

Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C.
11455 El Camino Real, Suite 470
San Diego, California 92130
Office: (858) 458-9500
Fax: (858) 630-2341
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Our Firm Services The Following California Areas:
San Diego, La Jolla, Del Mar, Carmel Valley, Rancho Santa Fe, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Pacific Beach, and Mission Beach.

Certified family law specialist by the State Bar of California's Board of Legal Specialization.

Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C. is a San Diego, California firm practicing exclusively in the area of domestic relations law. We handle a wide range of matters including divorce, child custody, and child support. Whatever your situation we can be of assistance. Feel free to contact us today.

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