What is parental alienation?

There is no fixed or single definition of parental alienation.

CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service that independently advise the family courts about what is safe for children and in their best interests) defines parental alienation as follows:

“when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.”

Parental alienation can be described as manipulation of a child by one parent against the other, without any justifiable good reason. It occurs when child shows animosity towards a parent with whom they once had a loving relationship and presents reluctance to spend time with them.

It is worth noting that it is not always a deliberate. Sometimes parent’s greave following break up of the relationship is picked up by the child and mirrored/reflected in their relationship with the other parent.

It is not always a parental alienation

Sometimes there are very good reasons for one parent to object to contact taking place. If a parent has a justifiable reason or safeguarding concerns as to why contact is not safe for a child, then it is not alienation.

Types of behaviour that can amount to parental alienation:

  • Negative comments about the other parent
  • Blaming the other parent for their own feelings of loss;
  • Being unable to separate their child’s needs from their own;
  • Manipulating a child into unquestioning loyalty for one parent, to the detriment of the other
  • Limiting contact with the other parent
  • Withdrawal of love towards the child
  • Telling the child that the other parent does not love them
  • Forcing the child to choose between parents
  • Confiding in the child
  • Forcing the child to reject the other parent
  • Asking the child to keep secrets from the other parent
  • Referring to the other parent by their first name
  • Referring to the stepparent as “Mom” or “Dad” and encouraging the child to do the same
  • Encouraging disrespect or defiance towards the other parent;

Parental alienation profoundly affects both children and alienated parents. Children of parental alienation are at increased risk for future trust and relationship issues. For a rejected parent, the pain is excruciating. It is important to act at an early stage, before it is too late, when alienating behaviours become apparent. Cases involving allegations of parental alienation require skilled and experienced professional involvement. This includes the use of experts trained in the area of parental alienation and implacable hostility

If you are experiencing any of the examples listed above and would like to chat about it please contact us.

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