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Parents going through a divorce in our state almost always seek to make agreements in the best interest of their children. To that end, family law matters in Washington and across the country have been the scene of discussions regarding parental alienation for many years. The condition, which afflicts some children whose parents are going through a divorce, can result from the child becoming over-attached to one parent at the cost of the relationship with the other parent. In divorce cases, this can be important for considerations such as child custody or support.

Often, when the term parental alienation is used, it is done so to explain the estrangement between a parent and child. This is somewhat common in family law matters regarding child custody. The issue can be asserted during or even after a divorce is final in our state. For most who present evidence of the existence of such a condition, the intent is to make the best decision for their children. However some authorities believe that this decision-making process extends beyond parents and the court, into the realm of mental health.

Debate remains over whether parental alienation should be classified as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. There are proponents to the addition who believe that the condition would aid the courts in fairness. Opponents contend however that the condition is not a disorder, but more of a relationship issue. For the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) slated to be complete next year, it is said that parental alienation will not be included.

Regardless of the classification of the condition, it remains true that in some cases the children of Washington parents going through divorce feel emotional stress. This may be exacerbated by the contentiousness of their parent's separation. When that happens, parents may be able to limit the emotional stressors present in family law through discussions with their children and other tools. The court, first and foremost, will consider what is best for the children. It is then up to parents to ensure that the children have what they need from them moving forward.