Parental Alienation

There is no doubt that the breakdown of a family unit has a negative and emotional impact on all of those involved but in particular the children. In an ideal world, both parents would work together and help the children to adjust to the new way of living. However, sadly, it is not unusual for the children to be caught in the middle of parents who are at war battling through an acrimonious divorce and who cannot agree contact arrangements for the children.

What is Parental Alienation?

Whilst emotions are running high, one parent may turn a child against the other parent by telling them that mum or dad is nasty, selfish and does not love them anymore. This causes emotional and psychological distress to the child and unconsciously they think that the less often they see that parent, the less often they will feel upset and anxious- this is Parental Alienation. A child becomes resistant or hostile towards one parent as a result of the psychological manipulation, coercion and pressure inflicted by the other parent.

How to recognise Parental Alienation

The signs to look for are: –

1. The child’s emotions are disproportionately directed at you. The child blames you for the separation/divorce, is very distant from you and is overly defensive when talking about the other parent.

2. The contact is limited by the alienating parent and contact becomes the child’s choice as opposed to a decision made by the parents.

3. The alienating parent undermines your authority as a parent and does not communicating with you effectively so as to remove your presence from the child’s life. For example, forgetting to inform you about parent’s evening.

4. The alienating parent is very controlling over the child’s property. For example, not allowing the child to take a birthday present to your house during contact. This frustrates the child causing unnecessary tension and can lead to Parental Alienation.

How do the Courts deal with Parental Alienation?

A framework has been developed to help the Family Court Advisors identify how children are experiencing Parental Alienation, the emotional harm caused by such alienating behaviours and then they assess whether it is safe and in the best interest of the child to have contact with one or both parents. The Family Court Advisors then report their recommendations to the Court for the Judge to consider before making a final decision about what contact the child will have with either parent.

Krista Enziano is a Solicitor in the Family Department at O’Donnell Solicitors. For more information or a second opinion, please contact her on 01457 761320 or email