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Identifying and Understanding Parental Alienation

on Thursday, 10 August 2023.

Separation or divorce isn't always amicable. If children are involved, it is important they feel they will still have a positive relationship with both parents. If children's behaviour changes, one parent may suspect parental alienation is occurring.

What is Parental Alienation?

This is when one parent uses negative behaviours and attitudes to manipulate their child's view of the other parent, which will often lead to the child rejecting the other parent.

Possible Signs of Parental Alienation

There is no exhaustive list of behaviours which constitute parental alienation, but examples include:

  • one parent speaking negatively about the other in front of their child
  • telling the child false or exaggerated stories about the other parent to create a negative impression of them
  • not passing on messages or gifts which could make the child feel like the other parent does not care about them
  • unreasonably limiting the amount of contact between the 'alienated' parent and the child
  • it can also be more subtle behaviours such as frowning when the parents name is mentioned or failing to properly facilitate telephone contact

These could lead to changes in the child's behaviour or attitude and is often an indication that alienating behaviours are occurring. They may begin to be distant with the 'alienated' parent and refuse contact with them. They may also begin to speak negatively about the parent at school, perhaps even using adult language which they will have picked up from the alienating behaviour.

How Can the Court Help the 'Alienated' Parent?

If the child is showing signs that they are uncharacteristically distancing themselves from the other parent, then the court will want to understand why.

The court may order an investigation to be conducted which will often involve Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service). They will try to  ascertain the reason behind the child's feelings of reluctance to see their parent, as well as how the separation has affected them.

If there is a finding that alienation has occurred, in most cases, it will be the aim of the court to try to restore the relationship between the 'alienated' parent and the child. The court may make orders including, but not limited to, the child spending more time with the 'alienated' parent, family therapy or moving the child's place of residence.

In all divorce and separation proceedings involving a child, both parents should be aware of the influence their behaviours can have on the child and the potential repercussions if they were found to have been manipulating them against the other parent. No matter what happens in your relationship, it is important for the children to feel that you both will continue to be their parents and love them unconditionally.

If you need any advice or support on dealing with the breakdown of your relationship and how your children are affected by it, please contact our New Enquiries team on 020 7405 1234, or complete the form below.

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