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Should a judge be able to force children to get along with a parent? P.1

Divorce can result in all kinds of stress for couples and their children, as is well know. A lot of this stress comes simply from having to change living arrangements and having the ordinary schedule disrupted. A great deal of stress can also come from bitterness, fighting and gossiping, though.

When couples fight a lot, it is inevitable that some of this will rub off on their children. This is especially the case, though, when a parent talks badly about the other parent in front of the kids, or worse, attempts to turn the children against the other parent. Young children, being impressionable, will usually believe what they are told and may end up treating the other parent differently, which can impact custody and visitation.  

An ongoing custody case here in Michigan is good example of what can happen when children turn against a parent amid divorce. The case involves a couple whose divorce was initiated in 2009. The children had been living with their mother, whom the father accused of turning the children against him. The divorce turned out to be a bitter one, with the wife accusing the father of abusing the 11-year-old—an allegation he denies—and opposing his efforts to maintain a relationship with the children. At one point, the children were sent to a juvenile detention facility for contempt of court after refusing to have lunch with their father.

The judge handling the case ordered that the three children—who are 9, 11, and 14 years old—to attend a five-day intensive treatment known as reunification therapy. The therapy is aimed at treating parental alienation, which is when one parent alienates the other parent from the affections of the children. Following the children’s participation in the therapy, they went to live with their father, his second wife, and their half brother. The father has filed for full custody of the children, and has requested that the children have no contact with their mother for 90 days to support his efforts to reestablish a relationship with them.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this case and the topic of alienation of affection, specifically how an experienced attorney can help handle such situations. 

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Should a judge be able to force children to get along with a parent? P.1 | Peter A D'Angelo, Attorney at Law, PLC