During the emotions that often accompany a divorce, parents may make false accusations against each other. For instance, one parent may claim that the other is an abuser while the other may claim that the child was brainwashed into believing that to be the case. This puts judges and others in an awkward position as they must ensure that children are not put into the custody of someone who may actually harm them.
This type of tactic is known as parental alienation. A parent may tell the child on a regular basis that the other parent doesn't deserve love and affection. After awhile, the child may decide not to associate with the other parent or with other extended family members. However, the parent who is making these accusations often isn't basing them on fact as much as is trying to manipulate the child.
However, some believe that the concept of parental alienation is overblown. Research has yet to determine that it is a real disorder, and in one study, it was determined that 80 percent of mothers who alleged abuse by the father lost primary custody of the child.
In a child custody dispute, the goal of courts is to ensure that the best interests of the child are met. This of course should be the primary objective of the parents as well. Unfortunately, many parents consider child custody to be a battle, with winners and losers. Family law attorneys might suggest to their clients that mediation or negotiations might be preferable alternatives to litigation when attempting to determine custody and visitation.