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What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation refers to a situation where one parent’s psychological manipulation of a child, whether done consciously or unconsciously, creates an unfounded resistance or hostility between that child and the other parent.

Possible signs of parental alienation

Alienating behaviours can be displayed by both men and women, and can include the following:

  • Consistent derogatory or belittling comments about the other parent.
  • Interfering in the relationship between the child and the other parent, so that there is less contact between them. This can range from preventing the child from spending time with the other parent, to not passing on cards and gifts sent to the child by the other parent.
  • Limiting or forbidding conversations about the other parent.
  • Creating false impressions of the other parent. For example, that they dislike or do not love the child, or that they have caused harm or are capable of harming the child.
  • Excluding the other parent from being involved in the child’s life. This includes not sharing information with them about key events taking place in the child’s life and preventing them from making decisions about the child’s welfare.

Alienating behaviours can present themselves in a multitude of ways, with varying effects on the wellbeing of the child.  It should also be noted that these alienating behaviours can often be assimilated by the child, which may cause them to reject or resist spending time with the other parent.

What can you do if you suspect your child is suffering from parental alienation?

It is important to act quickly if there are strong and well-founded concerns of parental alienation, not least because by allowing the status quo to remain in place, it can strengthen and prolong the alienation between a parent and child.

In such cases, both parents could consider working with a Family Consultant or a Parenting Coordinator.  These are trained professionals that can help separated or divorced parents consider how to best meet their children’s needs.  This option will however depend on both parents engaging with the process.  However, if one parent is unwilling to consider these options, or if discussions with a Family Consultant / Parenting Coordinator break down, parents should seek specialist legal advice as to whether the intervention of the court is required.

Parental alienation may be one of many reasons as to why a child is resistant to spending time with a parent and to that end, a careful and nuanced investigation may be required into the actual causes of that resistance and how they are impacting on the child concerned.  If it is established that a child is being alienated, the court will consider how they can rebuild their relationship with an estranged parent.  This may however present difficulties for the child, particularly if their hostility towards that parent is deeply entrenched.

The court will have to carefully balance its decisions in a way that promotes the emotional and physical wellbeing of the child.  To assist the court in making its decisions, professional experts may be called upon to assess the risks to the child in having a relationship with one or both parents.  Based on the evidence available, the court will then decide on what arrangements should be implemented which are in the best interests of the child.

If you believe that your child is suffering from parental alienation, or you would like further information on children matters, we offer an initial consultation of up to one hour for £50.00 (Incl. VAT), where you can receive further advice.  To book an initial consultation with us, please contact 01444 472700, email info@tisshawssolicitors.co.uk or complete the Quick Contact form below.

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