It is natural for a child to feel hurt and angry at one or both parents following a divorce. But what is not normal is for one parent to gatekeep the child or even try to poison the child against the other parent. In extreme cases, parental gatekeeping can be considered psychological abuse.
What is parental gatekeeping?
Parental gatekeeping occurs when one parent tries to restrict or exclude the other parent’s ability to be involved in their child’s life.
The gatekeeping parent may not tell the other parent about school events or extracurricular activities. They may not bring the child to the other parent during a scheduled child visitation exchange. They may not allow your child to call or text the other parent. They may make derogatory comments about the other parent in front of the child.
At its very worst, gatekeeping can lead to parental alienation. Parental alienation occurs when one parent convinces the child to reject the other parent. Often, this is done through lies and manipulation. Parental alienation can be considered a form of psychological abuse.
Modifying child custody due to parental alienation
If you can prove parental alienation has occurred to the detriment of your child, you may be able to have your child custody order modified. Child custody modification laws vary by state.
In general, if the case is extreme enough and the child’s health or safety is at risk, the alienating parent can lose custody of the child, and be limited to supervised visitation. Most states also require a modification to be in the best interests of the child. This includes determining whether child abuse is an issue.
In the end, seeking a child custody modification can be difficult under the best of circumstances. Courts hesitate to change established orders on a whim. Still, if you can prove through clear and convincing evidence that parental alienation has caused psychological harm to your child, you may be able to seek a modification of an existing child custody order.