Following divorce, parent-child relationships can be marked along a continuum. At the healthy end of the continuum, a child has a positive relationship and maintains contact with both parents. At the other end of the continuum, a child is alienated from a parent. In the middle, a child prefers contact with one parent, either because of a stronger alliance with that individual or because the child is estranged from the other parent. Allied children sometimes resist contact with a parent for developmentally normal reasons or because of a stronger affinity for the other parent. Estranged children often resist or refuse contact due to a history of violence, abuse, or neglect, and express credible reasons for their resentment and trepidation. Alienated children typically express distorted or exaggerated reasons for rejecting a parent, and deny any positive feelings for that individual. A thorough evaluation can differentiate between allied, estranged, and alienated children. This is an important distinction because estranged children and alienated children require different assistance and therapeutic interventions.

Dr. Daniel Swerdlow-Freed has extensive experience evaluating situations in which a child resists contact with a parent following separation or divorce. He is widely recognized for his skill at identifying factors that influence a child’s resistance or refusal to have contact with a parent. His extensive knowledge of family violence, child sexual abuse, child physical abuse, and child neglect enables him to determine if a child’s safety is at risk and warrants protection. Abuse sensitive evaluations also consider other explanations for a child’s visitation resistance or refusal. Does the child’s behavior reflect a normal developmental stage? Is the child resisting because of exposure to poor parenting? Has the child witnessed a parent under the influence of drugs or alcohol? His evaluations carefully consider the myriad of reasons for a child resisting contact with a parent and offer practical, realistic recommendations to resolve this problem.

Visitation resistance and refusal evaluations explore critical questions:

  • Has the child been exposed to sexual abuse, physical abuse, or emotional abuse?
  • Has the child witnessed domestic violence?
  • What parent characteristics play a role in the child’s visitation resistance or refusal?
  • Has the child been exposed to a parenting style that is too harsh or too lenient?
  • What is the other parent’s role in the child’s visitation resistance or refusal?
  • What child characteristics play a role in the child’s resistance to parental contact?