The term 'parental alienation" may come up from time to time in Pennsylvania family courts. Parental alienation is when one parent badmouths the other parent to their children so often that the children turn against a parent they used to love. Some people believe that parental alienation is a form of brainwashing, and children who have been alienated from one parent can be made to present false testimony about abuse.
While it is known that parental alienation is damaging to children, wide acceptance of the term may cause real accusations of child abuse to be ignored. A law professor from The George Washington University says that when child abuse accusations come up during custody battles, judges quickly assume that the child is making false claims because of parental alienation. When a judge assumes a child has been brainwashed to believe that they were abused, the child usually ends up in the full custody of the parent who has been accused of abuse.
According to the law professor, parents who raise the issue of child abuse in court risks losing all access to their child unless the evidence is very strong. In a study of 240 cases, the professor found that 80 percent of mothers who accused fathers of child abuse lost primary or joint custody of their children.
A parent who is involved in a child custody battle where allegations of child abuse are being raised may want to have the assistance of an attorney with the presentation of evidence. If the parent was previously accused of parental alienation, an attorney might help pursue a new custody order.