My spouse is restricting access and alienating my child during our divorce. What can I do?

In some divorces, one parent may try to alienate another from the children through hostile or aggressive actions. This restrictive practice of “gatekeeping” is estimated to be a feature in 11-15% of divorce cases around the United States. The long-term effects on kids can manifest as low self-esteem or self-hatred, trust issues and guilt, or even depression.

Parental Gatekeeping is any attitude, behavior or action that affects the quality of the parent-child relationship or level of involvement. This behavior is often connected to high-conflict disputes as an effort to align a child or children with one parent during the litigation. While there are examples of facilitative gatekeeping where one parent works to encourage time with the other, it is the restrictive gatekeeping that creates tension between parents and their children.

Restrictive Gatekeeping typically falls in to two patterns: indirect and direct. It can be hard to identify indirect actions as they may be more nuanced: removing pictures from the house, not wanting to discuss the other parent or their time together. In contrast, direct actions can be painful and overt: badmouthing the other parent, limiting contact or withholding information about activities, intrusive phone calls, etc…

In the eyes of the law, it is the right of the child to have contact with both parents.

There are situations when one parent feels the need be a protective gatekeeper. They may try to restrict the other parent’s time with the children due to some perceived risk of emotional and/or physical harm to the child. However, this is different from estrangement which is a rational response by the child to abusive parenting or a developed response to the divorce.

The longer this behavior goes on the harder it is to remedy. There are successful, systemic approaches towards reunification. These approaches need to be specific with well-defined roles and expectations, educated with the support of appropriately trained professionals, and swift to avoid long-terms effects on the child.

The attorneys at Goldberg Simpson strive to be approachable, accessible and responsive to our client’s needs. If you are struggling with gatekeeping behavior in your divorce we can help. Our personalized, family-centered approach is geared to achieve the best outcome for you and your family. To learn more about our Family Law practice, click here.

To contact us, send us a message or call (502) 589-4440 to schedule a consultation.

Posted by Louis I. Waterman