Attorney Eric D. Puryear

Parental Alienation in Iowa Custody and Divorce Cases

Puryear Law » Legal Blog » Iowa Family Law » Parental Alienation in Iowa Custody and Divorce Cases

Parental Alienation is a situation commonly produced in divorce and custody cases when one parent (or other person) tries to destroy the relationship between a child and the other parent.  Iowa law recognizes such improper action on the part of a parent, grandparent, or other person is seriously harmful to the child, and the Iowa court system can address the situation.


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What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation involves a child who has been driven away from one parent by the actions of the other parent, or someone acting on behalf of that other parent.  For example, the mother may make disparaging remarks about the father such that the child internalizes the statements and then does the same to the father, or perhaps goes further and refuses to have a relationship with the father.  As another example, the father’s mother may take action to make the child believe the mother doesn’t really love the child, thereby destroying that mother-child relationship.

Whether “Parental Alienation Syndrome” is an actual medical disorder is a matter debated by those in the psychiatric and psychological  communities, that medical distinction does not really concern us in the legal system as the effects are quite real and problematic, and as such the court in Iowa can and do properly address parental alienation.  Indeed, to use another analogy, just because the court may not see a failure to pay child support or the neglect of a child as part of a “syndrome,” it does not mean that the court will not address the matter.


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Dealing with Parental Alienation in Iowa

Parental Alienation has been recognized by Iowa courts in many cases. see e.g. In re Marriage of Rosenfeld,  524 N.W.2d 212 (Iowa App. 1994); In re Marriage of Burt, 804 N.W.2d 314 at *1.  Indeed, one of the custody factors in Iowa Code section 598, which applies to divorce and custody cases, is “Whether each parent can support the other parent’s relationship with the child.”

The courts in Iowa apply that code section and Iowa’s caselaw on parental alienation to place a child with a parent who will not engage in such parental alienation, or allow other people (such as their own parents or relatives) to do so.  Iowa courts have gone so far as to transfer custody of a child from one parent who was engaging to parental alienation to the other parent, and then deny the former custodial parent any visitation for an extended time, so as to allow the parent-child relationship to be healed.


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A parent whose child is suffering from parental alienation in Iowa faces a difficult situation that must be handled properly if it is to be fixed.  That process involves obtaining the necessary evidence to properly present the issue to the court in a persuasive manner, as parental alienation is something that must be proven – not just claimed.  For that reason, such a parent is wise to consult with a divorce or custody attorney at once.


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