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What is 'malicious parent syndrome'?

Florida divorce and custody proceedings are often contentious and emotionally trying processes that can cause one or both parties to act out in harmful manners. In studying the ways in which parents act out, one psychologist noticed a pattern in which one parent seeks to punish the other by acting purposefully or vengefully toward the other during or following the court proceedings. The psychologist noted that some parents sometimes go so far as to deprive or harm the child in order to make the other parent look bad. This psychologist dubbed the phenomenon as "malicious mother syndrome," but mental health care professionals now refer to it as "malicious parent syndrome."

According to FindLaw, Dr. Ira Turkat, the psychologist who first recognized this syndrome, sought to identify and describe the phenomenon that is malicious parent syndrome. In doing so, he summarized that the condition is characterized by four major criteria. Those who exhibit the syndrome display the following symptoms:

  •       An attempt to punish the other parent by alienating the child or children from him or her and using others, including the courts, to separate the other parent from the child or children
  •       An attempt to deny the other parent visitation or communication with the child or children, which he or she does by involving the child's school and other organizations
  •       Lying to the child or children and others
  •       No other signs of any other mental disorder that may explain these actions

The actions of a malicious parent can put a great deal of strain on both the target parent and his or her relationship with the child or children. In extreme cases, it can cause the target parent to withdraw from his or her child's life entirely. For this reason, courts may impose criminal or civil sanctions against the malicious parent. 

This article is not meant to serve as legal advice. It is for education purposes only. 

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