Parental Alienation Explained

Jo-Anna Jellings
Author:
Jo-Anna Jellings
Senior Associate Solicitor
Date:
11/01/2022

While there is no single definition of what parental alienation is, it can be identified by a child’s hostility, negativity or resistance towards one parent, without justification. It can also sometimes happen where one parent has ‘implacable hostility’ towards the other parent or contact.

It usually begins with one parent either exposing their child to their negative views directly or indirectly, or failing to protect a child from being exposed to these views.
In some cases, it can include actively giving false or negative statements to a child to create a false negative perception of that parent. In other cases, it can include actively putting obstacles in the way of contact, or offering alternate activities and plans to discourage the child from spending time with the other parent. It’s often a mixture of these behaviours.

Parental alienation can be subtle or much more ‘dramatic’ and obvious, but the biggest problem is the effect it has on your child.

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What Are the Signs of Parental Alienation?

There are often lots of key indicators that your child’s expressed wishes and feelings do not reflect their true views.

This can be:

  • body language or certain questions;
  • a stark contrast in how they respond to certain information in different environments;
  • how they compare to an objective assessment of the situation, for example comparing the standard way someone might react to a situation with the way your child reacts.

Can Parental Alienation Have Long Term Effects?

Parental alienation can have a significant impact not only on a child’s view of a parent but lasting emotional consequences for the child themselves.

Research has shown that if children are not given the opportunity to have a full relationship with both of their parents or have a distorted image of one parent without reason, it can have a long-term impact on their emotional and psychological wellbeing.

Having a strongly negative view of a parent can:

  • affect a child’s future relationships;
  • give a child trust issues;
  • result in mental health struggles;
  • in some cases be linked to wider issues such as substance abuse;
  • have lasting effects on a child’s self-esteem and self-identity.

Alienation can lead to your child expressing emotions that do not reflect their true wishes and feelings, or that come up without explanation or reasoning based on inaccurate information.

In these situations, it is essential that you don’t simply take wishes and feelings at face value but instead analyse and assess this behaviour.

Can I Legally Fight Parental Alienation?

Legal action often forms part of the process, but input from other professionals such as social workers, mental health professionals, psychologists or psychiatrists can be invaluable in dealing with the root cause.

These cases involve complex emotional issues and Court Orders alone form only part of the picture. CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) has a framework for dealing with alienation cases, but it is important to remember that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.

There are many different views on the best way to approach alienation, but most people agree delay can be the biggest problem.

Alienation often becomes more difficult to deal with the longer it has been going, so it is important you identify and tackle it as soon as possible.

As well as dealing with alienation at an early stage, it is also important the term is used correctly.

Be Sure of Parental Alienation

Professionals and the Courts can be critical of people using the term alienation too easily, to describe any problems with child contact. It can be a delicate balance.

There will always be cases where problems with contact have a rational and reasonable basis. You should think carefully and examine the facts and circumstances of your case to get to the cause of the problems before you get too attached to specific labels.

It’s important to make sure the Court and professionals understand exactly what the behaviour causing concern is. Our Children Law Solicitors can help you understand this behaviour before you take things to Court using labels.

With a full understanding of the exact nature of the problems, we can assess and help you deal with your issues and identify the cause of the problems quickly.

Over the years, we have seen many examples of alienation, and there is never an easy or quick answer. It can be exhausting and disheartening but the law is clear that a child needs to have a positive relationship with both parents, unless there is a clear reason not to, for example if it would be harmful.

We will tailor our approach and solution to your situation, because there is no model that will work for everyone.

This is why speaking to experts can be invaluable.

If you believe you may be the victim of parental alienation, our experienced Children Lawyers are here to help.

For initial legal advice call our Family Law and Divorce Solicitors

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