Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Parental Estrangement

While there are no official statistics on the subject, it seems as though more and more parents are becoming estranged from their adult children. As a Family Law and Divorce attorney, I have represented both grandparents seeking visitation with their grandchildren, against their children’s wishes, and children who are for personal reasons trying to stop their parents from having a relationship with their grandchildren.

In a recent article in The New York Times, it states that parental estrangement appears to be becoming more and more common, even in families who have not experienced any cruelty or traumas such as abuse and addiction. To the contrary, parents are more often reporting the break down of a once close relationship.

Now one might assume that if there is estrangement than the parent is the one that did something wrong, but in many cases of parental estrangement that is not the case. In fact, in most of the instances of parental estrangement, as I have personally observed and as the article points out, the parents being estranged are those that were good parents, who like most other parents made mistakes within normal limits.

Many of the estranged parents are either seeking grief counseling, seeking solace in friends and other relationships, but some are contemplating or committing suicide. Since many of these estranged parents are ashamed to speak about their estrangement with others, including, friends and other family members, there are no real statistics on the amount of estranged parents, and limited resources to these parents. There are books written on the subject, such as, “When Parents Hurt” (William Morrow, 2007), but this issue is becoming known as a silent epidemic.

From what I have observed in the many cases I have handled due to parental estrangement, the break down of the parent-child relationship most often stems from the differing perspectives of parents and children. For example, when a parent believes they are doing something out of love, but the child believes it is the parent attempting to control them, control their choices and decisions, or worse criticize the adult child for such choices.

I am by no means an expert in parental estrangement but I am a believer that in cases of parental estrangement persistence, communication and time can mend the relationship. Most Family Court cases take a very long time to complete, with many court appearances and lots of back and forth communication between the parties through their attorneys and in court through the Judge. If a parent is persistent then in most cases as the court proceeding inches toward trial the relationship begins to slowly mend itself, and most of the cases are withdrawn or settled on the eve of trial because the parent and the child have come to understand the other’s point of view.

So, as the article states, “Parents have to be on a campaign to let the child know that they’re in it for the long haul.” (Dr. Joshua Coleman, a San Francisco psychologist who is an expert on parental estrangement.)

Until Next Time,

Helen M. Dukhan, Esq., LL.M. @

1 comment:

  1. Keeping away our parents from their grand children is a sin that we should try not to do..