There are several missteps parents can make in child custody matters when their focus is to serve their own needs rather than the needs of the child. Parental alienation is when one parent disparages the other parent intending to undermine the relationship between the other parent and the child.
Parental alienation may start before divorce even begins and has the potential to be very damaging to the child and the targeted parent.
Alienation can go beyond insulting the other parent. False allegations of abuse and reports to child services may come into play. A common tactic is to try to make the child feel guilty for spending time with the other parent or openly blame the other parent for all the problems in the family.
How to recognize it
You may not personally witness any direct disparagement from the other parent. However, you may be able to tell something is wrong by the behavior of your child. If you notice that your child is pulling away from spending time with you, is inexplicably angry with you or is abnormally focused on the emotional needs or reactions of the other parent, parental alienation may be occurring.
What to do about it
If you suspect that the other parent of your child is purposefully attempting to damage your relationship, bring it up as a child custody issue. If your ex is going so far as to violate custody orders to prevent you from seeing the child, they may be committing a felony under Minnesota law.
Parental alienation can have lasting psychological effects on the child. They not only miss out on the relationship with the targeted parent, but they suffer guilt and confusion over loving the targeted parent despite the obvious wishes of the alienating parent.