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How does New York law address parental alienation?

Understanding Parental Alienation Under New York Law

Parental alienation is a complex and deeply emotional issue that arises when a child becomes estranged from one parent due to the psychological manipulation by the other parent. In New York, this phenomenon is taken seriously within family law proceedings, reflecting the state's commitment to the best interests of the child.

Legal Recognition and Implications

In New York, parental alienation is not codified as a specific offense or cause of action. However, it is recognized in case law and can significantly impact custody and visitation decisions. Courts consider the best interests of the child as their paramount concern, which includes maintaining healthy relationships with both parents whenever possible.

When allegations of parental alienation arise in custody disputes, New York courts will closely examine the behaviors of both parents. If there is evidence that one parent is actively undermining the child's relationship with the other parent, this can lead to a reassessment of custody and visitation arrangements. For example, in the landmark case Krebsbach v. Gallagher, the court found that the mother's actions had poisoned the children's relationship with their father and altered custody accordingly.

Addressing Parental Alienation in Court

New York family courts have a range of measures at their disposal to address parental alienation. These can include ordering therapy for the child and alienated parent, modifying custody arrangements, or, in extreme cases, ordering a change of primary residence if it serves the child's best interests.

Courts may also recommend or require both parents to attend co-parenting courses or family therapy to remedy alienating behaviors and repair parent-child relationships. It's important to note that while courts are sensitive to accusations of parental alienation, they also rigorously investigate such claims to prevent misuse during contentious custody battles.

The Role of Mental Health Professionals

Mental health professionals play a critical role in identifying and addressing parental alienation in New York. Psychologists and psychiatrists may be called upon to provide expert testimony or conduct evaluations of the family to assist the court in determining the presence and extent of alienating behaviors.

Their assessments can be pivotal in shaping court orders related to custody and visitation, as well as any therapeutic interventions deemed necessary for the family's well-being.


Parental alienation is a challenging issue that New York courts handle with care and diligence to protect the welfare of children caught in the crossfire of parental disputes. By considering each case on its merits and utilizing professional insights, New York law strives to mitigate alienating behaviors and promote harmonious co-parenting relationships.