UPDATED: Originally published April 2019
Parental alienation is something our family law solicitors have a lot of experience in dealing with.
It can be very emotionally damaging, and we have listed some tips on how deal with it (read How To Deal With Parental Alienation).
But what is parental alienation?
The term parental alienation is used to describe situations where a child turns against a parent in an extreme way, refusing to see them and wanting to sever their relationship with them.
It can occur in both intact and separated families with the alienating parent usually being the primary carer.
Both genders have the potential to be the target of alienation, however as mothers typically assume the role of primary carer following a relationship breakdown, they are usually the alienator.
Parental alienation is also often referred to as malicious mother syndrome, intractable or implacable hostility cases.
Consequences Of Parental Alienation
The consequences of alienation can be devastating.
To deliberately influence a child to reject a parent is emotional abuse.
To encourage a child to sever a previously loving relationship following a divorce or separation has long term consequences for the child, the alienated parent and the extended family.
Signs Of Parental Alienation
Alienation may begin subtly over a period of time.
It can begin with the alienating parent making derogatory comments and denigrating the other parent.
Their criticisms are likely to be made within earshot of the child who may then start to repeat what they have heard.
The parent will feel undermined by the alienating parent and unsupported when caring for the children and feel like the children are encouraged to defy their authority.
This can then be followed by the alienator reducing the other parent’s contact with the child for what may appear to be rational reasons at first.
Indirect contact will be interfered with e.g. Louise is too tired today to Facetime you. The effect of this will be to undermine the other parent’s relationship with the child and reduce the child’s expectation of time they will see the other parent.
The alienated parent may find themselves excluded from involvement in the child’s day to day life. They may not be made aware of school parent evenings, concerts or shows, medical appointments etc. Important decisions about the child’s life may be made in isolation leaving the alienated parent feeling excluded and uninformed.
Alternatively, I have seen many cases where something drastic happens, such as a false allegation is made which causes all contact to be severed for a lengthy period of time.
I have experienced an array of allegations ranging from domestic abuse, sexual abuse, rape and poisoning.
Often a remark from a child is taken out of context by the alienating parent and misused in order to make an allegation to the police or social services about the other parent.
This can result in that parent being arrested in relation to an offence and social services making a recommendation that they have no contact with their children until findings are made in the family court.
Inevitably the professionals including child protection police officers, social workers and CAFCASS guardians will have a default position of believing the child.
The child is likely to be coerced or manipulated in the manufacture of the allegations by the alienating parent. Unfortunately for all involved, this process is likely to take many months.
During this time the alienated parent will be completely isolated from the child which further reinforces the alienation. The focus of professional involvement will be on the accused and the false allegation rather than on the accusers.
The alienating parent is left responsible for providing the child with a narrative as to why the absent parent has completely disappeared from their life.
By the time the matter is heard by a family court, it is likely that the child will be expressing a desire not to see the alienated parent. In my view this is not surprising, given that they will have perceived that they have been abandoned by that absent parent and have been privy to a biased narrative from the alienating parent during that period.
Contact Monan Gozzett
This blog has sought to help define what parental alienation means.
If you feel you have become an alienated parent and need help, our advice on how to fight parental alienation may help.
Should you require legal representation, our family law team could help.
Contact Monan Gozzett using the details below.