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Global Guide to Divorce
Jack Jack the Cat

Parental Polarization Post-Divorce

Parental polarization is when children are strongly attached to one parent and have a poor relationship with the other one. This is not about a baby clinging to his mother before spending time with his father. Polarization is when children truly balk at going to visitation and tell their therapist that they only want to be with a certain parent. It goes beyond “dad lets us stay up late and we have so much more fun together than with mum.” This becomes particularly evident during divorce when visitation is being initiated.

Divorce professionals have the task of determining whether the child is exhibiting polarization vs. parental alienation. Parental alienation syndrome has several components to it. The first one is that a parent may block or limit access to the other one. They may feel justified by this action because child support is late or nonexistent. However, this is impeding a child’s relationship with the absent parent and drawing her into a parental battle. A parent may claim that visitation is harming the child or is inconvenient with her schedule. The bottom line is that one parent is portrayed as inferior to the other one.

Another component to parental alienation is that a parent falsely accuses the other one of abuse or at least negligence. This can be intentional or the fact that they have different parenting styles and priorities. Meeting with a divorce coach can help them be on the same page particularly when no malice is intended. I have seen this in the schools where one will say how sick the child is after returning from the co-parent’s house. They are encouraging children to take their side.

A strong indicator of parental alienation is when the child has had good relationships with both parents before the divorce and has great animosity towards one now. A parent is verbally attacking the other one and the children are caught in the cross fire. The youngsters form an alliance with the attacker.

When children are polarized towards one parent, it has nothing to do with what that parent has said or done regarding the other one. The children do not suddenly go from being best buddies with a parent to mortal enemies, as can happen with parental alienation. The crux of the matter is, polarization is totally between a child and a parent without inference from anyone else, including the other parent.

When polarization occurs this is a red flag to investigate this situation. Why does the child not want to see the other parent?    Please read more