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Understanding Malicious Parent Syndrome

Understanding Malicious Parent Syndrome

A family going through divorce, with child holding hand of father while hugging on to mother, for child custody modifications speak to Grand Rapids family law attorney.

One of the most contentious aspects of any divorce involves the children and child custody issues. In many cases, parents can overcome any resentment that they feel towards the other until the divorce is finalized and everyone can move on with their lives. Sometimes, unfortunately, that is not the case, and parents exhibit extreme behavior. In some cases, that behavior is so extreme that it is called malicious parent syndrome. This syndrome, although not yet considered a mental disorder, refers to when one parent attempts to punish the other parent, sometimes even hurting or depriving their child in order to make the other parent look bad.

What Does Malicious Parent Syndrome Involve?

Once called malicious mother syndrome, it is now recognized that either a mother or father may exhibit signs of malicious parent syndrome. There are four main characteristics of malicious parent syndrome that include:

  • Trying to alienate the children from the other parent to the extent that the parent exhibiting signs of the syndrome may attempt to involve the courts to separate the child from the other parent,
  • Attempts to deny child custody, visitation, and communication with the other parent and leaving the other parent out of the child’s extra-curricular and school activities,
  • Lying to the children and other people and engaging in unlawful acts, and
  • Engaging in these acts when the malicious parent does not suffer from a mental disorder that would cause them to take these actions.

When one parent takes these types of actions, it can have an extremely negative impact on both the wronged parent and the child. Sometimes, the harmed parent simply withdraws from the child’s life to avoid conflict and to avoid placing more strain on the child. When a malicious parent is successful in their attempts to distance the child and the other parent, the child may end up disliking the other parent to the extent that they no longer want to spend time with them.

Legal Impact of Malicious Parent Syndrome

In many cases, the actions a malicious parent takes may constitute an illegal or criminal act. This is true when the malicious parent attacks the other parent or damages their property. When malicious parents hurt the child or children to make the other parent look bad, such as withholding food, money, or other basic needs, they may be charged with child abuse. If a malicious parent lies under oath, they can also be charged with perjury. 

Parents that are harmed by a malicious parent may also take civil action, including filing a civil claim for defamation or petitioning the court to change child custody orders.

Our Michigan Family Lawyers can Help Victims of Malicious Parents

Divorce is never easy but when one parent acts maliciously towards the other, it can seem unbearable. If you have been hurt by a malicious parent, call our Grand Rapids family lawyers at Van Den Heuvel Law Office. We will hold parents liable for their actions and can help strengthen the bond between you and your child once again. When you need legal help, call us or contact us online to learn more about how we can help.

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