What if my ex-spouse "poisons" the relationship between me and the child(ren)?
Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon claim or occurrence during a child custody preceding that often can continue to be a sore point throughout the remainder of the divorce relationship. Statutes seek to address this circumstance by having it as one of the factors considered by the judge. This can be seen in our example statute, as factor number 8 (for Arizona), as previously mentioned.
Judges are sensitive to this claim and will be on the lookout for any evidence of duress placed on the child(ren). If actual duress is suspected, it should be reported to your lawyer as soon as possible. The lawyer will know the best way to address this issue. Do not address this issue without careful thought and full understanding of the repercussions that may lie ahead.
On the other hand, parents should never use this claim as revenge. It does no one any good to allege duress or "poisoning," and it will harm any legitimate claims you may have in the future. Again, be aware that divorce is a sensitive issue, and child custody can be traumatic. You should try to lessen the trauma, not increase it.
The act of "poisoning" is now often referred to as "Parental Alienation Syndrome". It has gained popularity and there are several books written on the subject by experts who have experience observing broken poisoned family relationships. "Parental Alienation Syndrome" is the act of one parent attempting to influence the child(ren) a certain way intentionally or unintentionally to dislike the other parent. This is a very brief definition, so to follow are few examples that demonstrate how minimal or drastic the actions of a PAS parent can be:
Example #1: Mom says to the child(ren)," I am not getting you new sneakers today. Your father was supposed to buy you sneakers last weekend! (this example may seem harmless and unintentional, but the mother is making a statement that may make the child(ren) think that the father is a bad person who doesn’t care about them).
Example #2: Mom says to the child(ren)," I am not surprised you went to that restaurant for dinner. Your father has been going there for years and drinking enough beer to start his own brewery, not to mention all his lady friends that he would buy drinks for as well. (this example is much more intentional and is a direct attack on the personal character of the father).
Each of these examples can be classified a P.A.S.