The story is all-too common: A couple gets married, has kids and gets divorced. The divorce gets nasty, and the parent who gets custody starts to turn the kids against the other. Soon, the kids no longer wish to see the other parent. Their relationships are broken.

This is the story of parental alienation, and if it’s ever your story, you’ll want to know how to respond. Not just to recover your time and relationship, but because most experts believe parental alienation is a form of child abuse. Stopping it may spare your child from the worst, long-term psychological harm.

How does parental alienation harm children?

If your ex manipulates your children and turns them against you, your relationship is the first thing to suffer. Both on your side and on your child’s side. Your child no longer gets to enjoy your love and guidance. But that’s not all your children are likely to suffer. There are ongoing problems linked to parental alienation, including:

  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Drug use
  • Self-loathing
  • An inability to trust

The relationships that children share with their parents inform so much of how they view the world and themselves that severing or poisoning one has dire, far-reaching consequences.

Florida’s courts can respond to evidence of parental alienation as a “substantial change”

If you’re being targeted by parental alienation, you’re likely hurting. You don’t want to hear more about how your children might suffer, too, unless there’s something you can do about it. Fortunately, there may be.

Child custody is never 100% final. The court can modify a custody award if either side can prove there have been major changes to your child’s circumstances. In these cases, the old award may no longer serve your child’s best interests. And in 2005 the Florida Supreme Court recognized parental alienation as a possible cause for modification.

So, if your ex is trying to turn your children against you, you might want to gather evidence. The signs of parental alienation may include:

  • Ways your ex has bad-mouthed you
  • Violations of your parenting time
  • Signs your child has become unreasonably afraid of you
  • Your child’s belief he or she needs to choose between parents

If you’ve lost contact with your child, you may want to ask the court to take a fresh look at your case. It can grant a new award based on the current circumstances.

You don’t have to accept a broken relationship

You want a relationship with your child. But your child needs that relationship. If your ex tries to block or destroy your relationship, you can seek a modification. You and your child can rebuild your relationship.