In a Florida Divorce Involving Custody Case, Can My Words Come Back to Haunt Me?

905626_finger.jpgMore courts throughout the country including Florida are recognizing a condition called Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS. Parental Alienation Syndrome is often found in child custody or time-sharing battles in Florida. The basis for the issue is that one parent tries to pull the child into his/her corner and makes derogatory or disparaging remarks to the child about the other parent. The effect of which can be alienating the child’s affections from one parent to the other. As a Jacksonville divorce and family law attorney, I often counsel my clients early on that the children are not part of the case and are not meant to be involved. However, ultimately it is up to the parents to shelter the child from the court battle.

Often in a divorce, emotions run high and a parent may be concerned that the court will make a decision that takes the child from them. If emotions become too high and both parties are looking to achieve majority time-sharing, then the court may require that the parties undergo a Social Investigation, which took the place of a custody evaluation. The investigator is often a mental health professional that is trained to look at the parents and child to determine what is in the best interest of the child for purposes of time-sharing. The accusations of PAS should be brought to the attention of the investigator so that they can be properly identified and determined as to whether detrimental to the best interest of the child and the overall placement of the child with regards the time-sharing and parenting plans.

Issues involving claims or allegations of PAS can also be brought later by the parent-victim and determined by the court as to whether it is a substantial enough change to warrant a change in majority time-sharing. If PAS can be identified by the court through witness testimony (the child if she/he is old enough), and other evidence, then the court may find that the parent exhibiting such behaviors should be limited in his/her contact with the child, thus creating a need and environment for the child to be placed with the other parent on a majority basis.

In Florida and most other states, the courts use the best interests of the child standard and most often, alienating one parent from the child is not in the child’s best interests. In Florida, the court also determines time-sharing based on factors such as which parent will most likely facilitate a caring and nurturing relationship for the child with the other parent. Creating issues for the child and the other parent can have a negative impact both on the child and in the courtroom. The judges and social investigators look at all factors of the family unit to determine the best interest of the child and must look to the environment created by each parent. For more information about this issue and other issues involving divorce, child custody, child support, or family law issues, please contact our firm .