parental alienation child with parents
Child law

What is parental alienation, and what can I do about it?

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Walker Family Law
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What is parental alienation, and what can I do about it?

Last Saturday, the 25th of April, was Parental Alienation Awareness Day. You may well not have noticed. But if you are a ‘victim’ of parental alienation then if you had noticed then it would certainly have resonated with you.


What is ‘parental alienation’? parental alienation child with parents

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (‘Cafcass’), the organisation that looks after the interests of children involved in family proceedings, tell us that (their emphasis):

“While there is no single definition, we recognise parental alienation as when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.

They go on to explain that both mothers and fathers can demonstrate alienating behaviours, and that whilst alienation can be demonstrated solely by one parent, it is often a combination of child and adult behaviours and attitudes, with both parents playing a role, that lead to the child rejecting or resisting spending time with one parent.

What kind of behaviour are we talking about?

Well, there is no definitive list, and some types of behaviour will not necessarily lead to alienation, but behaviours and indicators can include: a parent constantly badmouthing or belittling the other in front of the child; a parent limiting the child’s contact with the other parent; a parent forbidding discussion about the other parent; and a parent creating the impression that the other parent dislikes or does not love the child.

Cafcass also explain that alienating behaviours can in addition include spurning, terrorising, isolating, corrupting or exploiting, and denying emotional responsiveness. They say that these tactics can foster a false belief that the alienated parent is dangerous or unworthy, and that children may adapt their own behaviours and feelings to the alienating parent to ensure that their attachment needs are met.

In some cases the actions of the alienating parent may be obvious. In other cases, however, the other, ‘alienated’, parent may know little about what the alienating parent has done. They may see their child demonstrate strong antipathy towards them, and may even suspect that this has been caused by the actions of the other parent, but will be unable to prove this. Parental alienation can be obvious, but it can also be insidious.


What can you do if you are an ‘alienated parent’? Girl with sand in her hands - What is parental alienation

Perhaps the most important thing to understand is that if a child demonstrates a clear antipathy towards one of their parents, then the court will want to know why. It will therefore conduct a thorough investigation, including by Cafcass officers trained in dealing with parental alienation and, if necessary, other experts, such as child psychologists.

If at all possible, the court will want to repair and restore the relationship between the child and the alienated parent.

If you believe that the other parent has alienated your child against you, you should therefore make an application to the court for a child arrangements order.

If, after investigating the matter, the court finds that the other parent has alienated your child against you, then the court will try to restore your relationship with your child, and it could even, in extreme cases, decide that the actions of the other parent are so damaging to your child that the child would be better off living with you.

You should, however, be aware that these can be very difficult cases for the court to deal with. They may take a long time for the court to deal with. You should therefore be prepared for the long haul.

Obviously, there can never be a guarantee that the court will be able to restore your relationship with your child, but if you instruct an expert family lawyer to deal with your case, and if you follow their advice, then your chances of success will be much greater.


Further information

Parental alienation is a complex and highly emotive subject. The above just sets out some basic advice. If you believe that you are a victim of parental alienation then you really should consult an expert family lawyer. We have that expertise – to contact us, please complete the form here.

We also offer lots of free information on a range of family matters, which you can find here.