What is Parental Alienation?

Author:
Jane Auty
Partner, Family Law and Divorce Solicitor
Date:
18/04/2019

There’s no single definition of parental alienation, but it’s often characterised by the resident parent psychologically manipulating a child against the other parent. That way, the child aligns themselves with one parent’s views and takes their side.

Parental alienation is a significant legal issue which has become common in children disputes. Indeed, the effect it has on children has been brought to the forefront of many cases in recent times, with both professionals and the public raising concerns.

For initial advice get in touch with our Family Law Solicitors.

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The Signs of Parental Alienation

As noted by psychologist Amy Baker (2010), parental alienation will usually result in the child adapting their behaviours and feelings to that of the alienating parent to ensure their attachment needs are met. This means they can end up trying to please the alienating parent, rather than basing their behaviour on true feelings.

Parental Alienation Syndrome

In most cases, the child will have had a loving relationship with the targeted parent before the alienation has started. However, the continual hostility can cause Parental Alienation Syndrome, whereby the child will eventually be the one to highlight the targeted parent’s faults and eventually believe that they’d be happier without them in their lives.

Parental alienation usually takes place when the parents have separated, are divorced or if the other parent has started a new relationship. The overall aim of the alienation is usually to punish the other parent.

Examples of Parental Alienation

      • Belittling, badmouthing and undermining the other parent
      • Forbidding discussion about the other parent whilst they’re in the alienating parent’s care
      • Interrogating the child after contact about the other parent and what discussions they had during their contact session
      • Placing blame on the other parent and making the child believe that they were the one to break up the family, resulting in hostility and hatred
      • Convincing the child that the other parent doesn’t love them or loves them less than another child of the family
      • Prohibiting contact or cancelling pre-arranged contact sessions
      • Restricting information provided to the other parent regarding schooling, activities or medical issues
      • Making important decisions about the child’s welfare without consultation of the other parent
      • Blocking indirect contact by making the child unavailable
      • Undermining the other parent’s authority

What Can be Done?

If you believe that your child is being alienated against you, you should seek legal advice from a Family Law Solicitor as soon as possible. If the alienation is severe, then you should consider making an urgent application to the Court, who can intervene to determine who the child spends time with.

As soon as you make your application to Court, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (or CAFCASS, who are agents of the Court) will become involved and will speak to you regarding your concerns.

They’ll also investigate the other parent regarding your allegations and recommend the next steps in your matter to the Court. CAFCASS are highly skilled in the field of children disputes and are often ex-social workers.

All professionals involved in the case such as CAFCASS, social workers and the Court will have to determine whether they believe parental alienation has taken place and whether it’s been the parent’s deliberate aim to turn the child against the targeted parent.

They will consider whether weight should be given to the child’s wishes and feelings when making a decision as to whom the child should live with or what contact the child should have with the non-resident parent.

If, after speaking to the child and the parents, the professionals remain very concerned, they can remove the child from the resident parent’s care and place them into the alienated parent’s care in an attempt to preserve the relationship. However, reversing what’s happened can be rare.

It’s important to remember that family Courts in England and Wales are there to help you should you believe that your child is being alienated against you or any other family member. Its primary aim is to ensure that the child’s welfare and best interests are served. If you remain concerned about your child being the victim of parental alienation, please contact one of our Family Law Solicitors to discuss what you can do next.

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