Month: March 2018

Parental Alienation and Their Devastating Effects

Parental alienation is a form of manipulation in which one parent attempts to harm or destroy a child’s relationship with the other parent. It may also be referred to, in layman’s terms, as “parental brainwashing.” This process is often accomplished through lies, misrepresentation, and isolation. Parental alienation may start with something has simple as complaining about a spouse in front of a child and grow in severity as problems between the couple escalate before, during, and after the divorce. The purpose of this psychological alienation is to bring the child or children closer to the offending parent by driving them away from the targeted parent. Victims of parental alienation often become fearful and mistrustful of the alienated parent. Because children are easily influenced and suggestable, they struggle to see the “gray area” in this conflict. Instead, they are groomed to see one parent as “good” and the other as “bad.” Parental alienation was first brought to light by Dr. Richard Gardner in 1985. His theories on parental alienation syndrome developed as he worked with families dealing with child custody disputes. It is important to understand that Dr. Gardner defined the manifestation of parental alienation as being based on assertions that have no justification.

Tell-tale signs of parental alienation

It isn’t uncommon for parents to criticize their spouse in front of their children in a moment of frustration. Children may also overhear arguments or misinterpret events. So, how do you distinguish parental alienation from an everyday, ill-timed dispute? Keep an eye out for these clear and common signs of parental alienation:
  • Discussing and sharing adult topics with the child especially those regarding the couple’s relationship and separation/divorce. This sign goes beyond “over-sharing.” It is a calculated attempt to influence the child’s perception of each parent.
  • Denying or attempting to deny the other parent access to the child’s school and medical records.
  • Refusing to share important information about the child’s performance in school, his or her schedules, and upcoming events.
  • Creating code-words and signals with the child when discussing the other parent.
  • Updating the child on the separation or divorce proceedings as if he or she were an adult.
  • Openly blaming the other parent for any and all problems.
  • Not allowing the child to bring personal items to the other parent’s residence.
  • Instructing the child to pick a favorite parent or to choose just one parent.
  • Asking the child to monitor the other parent and report back.
  • Scheduling fun events and activities during the child’s time with the other parent so he or she will not want to leave.
  • Withdrawing from and ignoring the child when he or she mentions the other parent in a positive way.
  • Monitoring the child’s phone conversations with the other parent.
  • Offering the child a choice to visit the other parent or not when the court order does not allow for a choice.

Parental alienation and child abuse

Severe alienation may be considered a form of emotional child abuse. It is important to recognize that many professionals are unaware of parental alienation syndrome and its effect on children. When a child is severely alienated from a parent, he or she becomes fearful, angry, and even, depressed. The idea that the other parent is somehow evil or dangerous may generate feelings of low self-esteem and unworthiness in the child. These feelings are often internalized and come to the surface through destructive behavior such as substance abuse. Parental alienation may also wreak havoc on the child’s future relationships and compel them to seek out high-conflict, unhealthy relationships as an adult. Perhaps worst of all, victims of parental alienation syndrome are more likely to alienate their own children. If you feel you are the target of parental alienation and are being alienated from your child, know that there is help. The attorneys of Melone Law P.C., will fight for your rights as a parent to ensure that both you and your child’s best interests are protected.

About Melone Law, P.C.

Melone Law, P.C. is a general practice law firm based in Reston and serves the Northern Virginia area.  Our practice areas include Family LawDivorce and Special Needs ChildrenTraffic Ticket DefenseDUI/DWI Defense, and Trust and Estate Law.  Our philosophy is to provide all of our clients with the highest quality legal representation, innovative legal solutions, and unsurpassed dedication to customer service.  Through our high standards, we strive to be a trusted resource to our clients. We know from experience that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on our ability to understand your needs and objectives.  For more information about our parental alienation and our family law practice, contact our office today at 703.995.9900 or visit our website: www.MeloneLawPC.com.

Estate Planning… Mistakes You Don’t Need to Make

Estate planning can be a complicated and tricky business.  Without a legal document detailing your wishes and how and when you want your estate divided and distributed, your assets could end up in the hands of a son or daughter before he/she has a clue about how to manage money wisely, or even a relative you hardly know.  One of the most important things you can do to protect both your estate and your loved ones is to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney.  They will ask the right questions, listen to your answers, and draft estate planning documents that make sure that your wishes are followed and mistakes are avoided.  The last thing you want is your heirs “duking” it out in court after you’re gone.

Here are four, often-made mistakes that are easily avoided:

Failing to maintain or update your estate planning documents:  Even with what you may consider a simple estate… maybe just your bank accounts or a house, it’s absolutely crucial that you have and maintain a valid will or living trust. Otherwise, you’ll have no control over who will inherit your possessions, your wishes may not be fulfilled, and it will be up to Virginia intestacy law to decide how to distribute your assets.  This could mean that your estate will be split between people who don’t get along and end up fighting over your estate in court, or people you don’t wish to inherit. Make sure that beneficiaries are kept up to date, especially after a life-changing event like a death or divorce.  The beneficiaries of life insurance policies, a 401k, and other retirement accounts will need to be changed.  If your first wife is still the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, no matter how long you’ve been divorced, or how long you’ve been married to your current spouse, she will inherit and get to keep the money. People mistakenly think that once their will or trust is signed, they’re done with it forever, but that’s not the case.  You should review your estate planning documents every five to six years to make sure nothing in your life that has any bearing on your estate has changed. Be careful when naming an executor:  Families are complicated and family dynamics during stressful times can cause in-fighting and damage relationships.  Feuding siblings are probably the most common cause of litigation over an estate.  It’s often best to name an objective, independent representative as executor of the estate, another family member or close friend, instead of one of your children.  Even if the estate is to be divided equally between siblings, giving the ultimate decision-making power to one of your children may be a recipe for disaster.  An independent representative, whose only allegiance is to your wishes, will settle the estate and potential disputes fairly. Gifting money to minor children or grandchildren with no rules in place:  If you name a minor a beneficiary of your estate with no restrictions, that young person will have total access to his/her inheritance at the age of eighteen.  Children, unfamiliar with access to large sums of money or budgeting can blow through an inheritance in a matter of months. The most prudent thing you can do to prevent a situation like this is to create a revocable living trust that provides for the health, education and well-being of the young heir. It’s a legal document you create that allows you to manage your estate while living, and designate a trusted agent to execute your wishes after your death. The trustee may be a family member, friend, or even someone unrelated to you, who will use the money responsibly to cover the child’s college tuition and costs, buy him/her a car, and generally help instill proper money management lessons.  Once the child reaches a specified age, maybe 25 or 30, he/she can inherit the balance of the estate. Ideally, this will ensure that your wishes for your heir is met and that he/she is set up for a financially secure life for the long-term. Don’t forget to specify the beneficiaries of important personal items:  The death of a loved one often doesn’t bring out the best in relatives, especially when it comes to heirlooms and other valuable or meaningful items owned by the deceased.  To keep family members from squabbling over, stealing, or hiding items that they want, talk with your children, grandchildren, and other family members now about which possessions mean the most to them.  Then put it in writing.  Clearly list exactly what you want to bestow on each heir and where it is kept, and attach this list to your estate planning documents.  Remember, it’s easy to challenge a “verbal” agreement in court, but much more difficult to disprove a written one. The best way to ensure that your wishes for taking care of your loved ones and distributing your property are carried out after your death is to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced estate planning attorney. In Virginia, Melone Law, P.C. is here to help. We offer a full range of estate planning and probate services including wills, trusts, powers of attorney, living wills and advance health care directives, estate tax planning, guardianship and conservatorship, and representation for contested estate matters.

About Melone Law, P.C.

Melone Law, P.C. is a general practice law firm based in Reston and serves the Northern Virginia area.  Our practice areas include Family LawDivorce and Special Needs ChildrenTraffic Ticket DefenseDUI/DWI Defense, and Trust and Estate Law.  Our philosophy is to provide all of our clients with the highest quality legal representation, innovative legal solutions, and unsurpassed dedication to customer service.  Through our high standards, we strive to be a trusted resource to our clients. We know from experience that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on our ability to understand your needs and objectives.  For more information about estate planning, contact our office today at 703.995.9900 or visit our website: www.MeloneLawPC.com.

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