Parental alienation cases are heart breaking, both because of the damage to the children and the fact that the alienated parent is often robbed of large parts of the children’s childhood – and worse. For years I have said that childhood is fleeting and it is really over in a blink of an eye. Parents who lose time with their children or are precluded from events due to alienation, never get that time or experience back.

Worse yet, courts are often slow to take action, if they take any action at all, which only exacerbates the problem. Warnings seldom work and often it takes motion after motion to get any relief, and the relief granted is often not helpful. For those who consider parental alienation to be child abuse, this too exacerbates the problem.

So when I see a case where a court actually did something to address parental alienation, it makes sense to point it out. That is exactly what happened in the case of A-0063-22 – A.U.B. VS. E.L. (FM-04-1307-20, CAMDEN COUNTY AND STATEWIDE) ( The opinion is long containing a lot of information documenting the alienation. That said, given the alienation, the trial judge gave dad sole legal and residential custody and limited mom to alternate weekends. The trial court also barred the maternal grandparents from any contact with the child, as the evidence showed that they were part of the alienation. The opinion noted that, “… The judge viewed the defendant’s family’s “manipulat[ion]” of this case as the biggest concern…”

The Appellate Division affirmed the award of sole legal and residential custody and the trial judge deviating from the custody expert’s recommendation of shared legal and residential custody. Too often that is a default recommendation of experts, even when parties cannot co-parent. In affirming, the Appellate Division noted:

“[A] successful joint custody arrangement” can exist even where the parents disagree, so long as they are “able to isolate their personal conflicts from their roles as parents,” “spar[ing]” the child from “whatever resentments and rancor the parents may harbor.” Beck, 86 N.J. at 498-99. Here, the record clearly establishes that the parties were unable to exercise such restraint. As the judge appropriately found, the parties had a distrust of one another, and they repeatedly resorted to airing their disputes on social media, even after she instructed them to not do so.

In this case, the expert was “pessimistic” about the likelihood of success of share custody given mom’s “…”entrenched” negative view of plaintiff.”

Further, the ability to communicate and cooperate is central to the ability to co-parent. In the opinion, the Appellate Division reiterated the well-settled law that is often honored in the breach, as follows:

The judge highlighted that plaintiff was the parent better able to communicate, cooperate, and facilitate parenting time in considering factors one and two. N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(c). In contrast, the judge found that defendant’s alienating behaviors undermined her ability to foster a relationship between plaintiff and the child.

A parent’s repeated inability to co-parent and interfere with the other parent can support an award of sole legal custody to the other parent. Nufrio, 241 N.J. Super. at 555. See also Beck, 86 N.J. at 499 (“[W]hen the actions of [an uncooperative] parent deprive the child of the kind of relationship with the other parent that is deemed to be in the child’s best interests, removing the child from the custody of the uncooperative parent may well be appropriate as a remedy of last resort.”).

The potential present and future impact of the alienation was also discussed:

As Dr. Joseph explained, defendant was incapable of finding any positive element in plaintiff’s relationship with the child, and her inability resulted in her alienating behavior and interference with parenting time. And, defendant did very little to promote plaintiff’s relationship with the child. According to Dr. Joseph, while the child’s young age allowed him to separate his positive
experiences from defendant’s negative descriptions of plaintiff, there was a genuine threat that the child eventually would reject plaintiff if defendant’s behavior persisted. The record supports this determination.

In this case, it seemed like the record was strong and the trial judge acted to stop continuing and prevent further conduct that was detrimental to the child. An interesting part of the case is that the trial judge did not find dad to be a boy scout either. While I have seen some judges be frustrated with both litigant’s and apply “a pox on both of their houses” approach, here the court appears to have put aside the fact that both parents were less than ideal and dig in to what was ultimately in the child’s best interests.

Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Department of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric is resident in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973) 994-7501, or