In Texas, the Family Court has broad latitude to fashion a custody order to protect a child from child abuse, including emotional abuse resulting from parental alienation. The command of the law is for the Court to fashion a court order to provide a “safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child” and the court is guided at all times by the legislative mandate that the “best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining conservatorship and possession of the child.”
What is Considered Emotional Abuse?
Where parental alienation is severe, it is emotional abuse and therefore triggers the broadest authorities for the family law court to intervene to protect the child’s environment. In Texas emotional abuse is defined as:
- Verbal/Emotional abuse is defined as:
- the willful infliction of an act or repeated acts of verbal or other communication, including gestures, to harass, intimidate, humiliate, or degrade an individual receiving services; or
- threats of physical or emotional harm against an individual receiving services.
In order for the definition of verbal/emotional abuse to be met, the act or communication must:
- result in an individual receiving services experiencing:
- significant impairment to his or her physical, mental, or emotional health;
- substantial physical, mental, or emotional distress as identified by an appropriate medical professional;
- or, be of such a serious nature that a reasonable person would consider it causing significant impairment to the physical, mental, or emotional health of the victim.
Returning to the courthouse picture, it is here that a family judge is confronted with seemingly impenetrable and dueling reports of a parental mistakes, a loving parent who is only attempting to protect the child from the mistake and endless accusations and counteraccusations forming an indecipherable cloud of conflict.
It is rare that a Texas family law attorney who is advocating for the alienated parent is properly trained and practices in the area of parental alienation and childhood estrangement. Effective advocacy for the alienated parent demands that the lawyer communicate to the core that in the severest of cases of parental alienation it always emotional abuse of the child, that requires immediate judicial and mental health intervention. It is vital to find a lawyer with experience fighting Parental Alienation in court.
A Real Life Example
Reported Texas caselaw on parental alienation is extremely limited. However, one example suggests a growing acknowledgement by the Texas Courts of the role of alienation. The presence of parental alienation was recently added as a factor to be included in weighing the “best interest of the child”, with respect to a contested minor name change.
The Court in In Re: A.E.M. reversed the lower court’s decision to change the minor child’s name to the mother’s last name. The Court included in their analysis of the child’s ‘best interest’ the factor of “whether either parent is motivated by concerns other than the child’s best interest—for example, an attempt to alienate the child from the other parent.”
While the Texas Supreme Court has not adopted parental alienation to its non-exhaustive list of “Holley Factors” required to be weighed in a determination of a child’s best interests in custody determinations, the In Re: A.E.M. Court decision clearly intoned that parental alienation is a latent factor that increasingly illuminates judicial decisions in the State of Texas. After the decision of the Court in 2014, some family law lawyers have suggested that parental alienation may be a new “Holly Factor.”
If you suspect that your child is suffering from Parental Alienation, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced lawyer right away to prevent long-term effects of the abuse.