Research and evidence confirms that the detrimental effects on children of divorce result not from their parent's marital/legal status or living arrangements but rather from a hostile parental relationship into which the child is thrust. To avoid parental alienation, parents must co-parent civilly and keep vigilant concerning marginalization and under-involvement of the non-residential parent with the children. Under the New York Law, parental alienation can result in the reduction of child support, but more importantly it can result in the change of custody.
What is "parental alienation?" While each case presents unique facts which the courts will consider in determining whether the conduct of the custodial parent rises to the level of parental alienation, generally parental alienation entails bad acts on the part of the custodial parent that cause interference with and impedes development of the relationship between the non-custodial parent and the child. Clearly, such conduct is contrary to the best interests of the child and, therefore, raises a strong probability that the offending party is unfit to act as a custodial parent.
The New York Appellate courts have come to realize that parental alienation is so harmful to the child, that it could warrant a change of custody. The First Department, in Osbourne v. Regina S., 55 AD3d 465 found that "the mother's negative attitude and hostility toward the father, as evidenced by her maligning of the father in the child's presence, the filing of unsubstantiated reports of abuse and neglect against him, and encouraging the child to lie to support her false claims, failed to demonstrate a willingness or ability on her part to facilitate and encourage a close and optimum relationship between the child and his father." As a result the court changed custody from the mother to the father.
In the case of Zeis v. Slater, 57 AD3d 793, the Second Department agreed with the Family Court that the mother should lose custody. The court found that the "mother deliberately interfered with the father's visitation rights, and moreover, denigrated the father in the child's presence. The Second Department held that such conduct is so inconsistent with the child's best interests that it per se raises a strong probability that the mother is unfit to act as a custodial parent.
In fact, the courts are so concerned with parental alienation that not only may a custodial parent lose custody, but may also lose unsupervised visitation. In Stewart v. Stewart, 56 AD3d 1218, the Fourth Department found that as a result of the parental alienation, that supervised visitation of the offending parent with the child was in the child's best interest.
Finally, the courts in New York have made is clear that a court may suspend a non-custodial parent's duty to provide child support after a finding that the custodial parent has willfully denied or interfered with visitation, or has engaged in parental alienation. Most Judges will not want to impose such a drastic sanction because of the effect upon the children if child support is not received. However, this is a possible remedy that you may seek from the court; it is not a remedy a parent may impose him or herself without a court order.