The "Friendly Parent Concept"
In some cases, the Court may note from the testimony or factual history that one parent is unusually hostile, or has a tendency to undermine the child's relationship with the other parent. Under the "friendly parent concept," the trial court may consider which parent is most likely to foster a child's relationship with the other parent when choosing the primary residential parent. Rossmiller v. Rossmiller, 112 Wn. App. 304, 48 P.3d 377 (2002).
The Tragic Consequences of Parental Alienation
In cases of severe hostility or an excess of anger and vindictiveness, a custodial parent can actually alienate-consciously or unconsciously-a child from the noncustodial parent without any legitimate justification. This can lead to a very tragic outcome when the child and the alienated parent, who previously had a loving and mutually satisfying relationship with the child, lose that relationship for many years, or perhaps for their lifetimes. In such situations, the children, and not just the alienated parent, suffer tremendous emotional harm. This can lead to serious emotional disorder, especially when the child ends up with a false belief that the alienated parent is a dangerous or unworthy person. See Bernet, et al, "Parental Alienation", American Journal of Family Therapy, Vol. 38, Issue 2, pp. 76-187.
Alienation is Contrary to the Children's Best Interests
Above all other considerations, the best interests of the children are controlling when the Court renders a decision on residential placement of the children. RCW 26.09.187 (3); In re Parentage of J.H., 112 Wn.App. 486, 49 P.3d 154 (2002); and In re Marriage of Possinger, 105 Wn.App. 326, 19 P.3d 1109 (2001). When one parent acts to alienate the other from the children, the result is absolutely harmful to their best interest. For this reason the Court should craft a Parenting Plan which protect children from harmful exposure to all forms of parental alienation. RCW 26.09.002, and RCW 26.09.184 (1) (e); In re Marriage of Jensen-Branch, 78 Wn.App. 482, 899 P.2d 803 (1995).
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