What is parental alienation?

    What is parental alienation?

    There is hope for parents denied contact by the other parent who has “alienated" the child from them and they are being refused a relationship with them.

    Likewise, parents who believe their child is at risk from the other parent, who require expert help to ensure the real risk is identified and assessed so they are not wrongly labelled as manipulating the child to their own ends, are offered hope by a new initiative.

    It is essential that effective advice and support is available to parents in such cases. This is so that there is no wrong labelling of a parent and the real risks to children can be identified and assessed.

    What is parental alienation?

    Parental alienation involves the manipulation of a child against the other parent. Often this polarises parents’ positions about the arrangements for children to spend time with the other parent. Children show animosity towards a parent with whom they once had a loving relationship.

    The concept is complex and can involve contributions from both parents to a psychological vulnerability within a child. It does not always involve a deliberate campaign of denigration by one parent of the other to the child.

    It can, however, involve a parent making derogatory remarks about the other parent to the child to the more severe types of false allegations that the other parent has harmed the child physically or sexually.

    Often there are allegations that one parent has poisoned or manipulated the other parent against them. Such manipulation of a child can be emotionally harmful and, although the harm caused may not be immediately obvious, long-term emotional harm can be caused if such cases are not challenged. Very often it is appropriate for children in such cases to have their own separate legal representation.

    What can be done about parental alienation?

    CAFCASS (the Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) has been piloting a project to give parents intense therapy to change their behaviour. This is in cases where parental manipulation of a child is identified with the ultimate sanction, if therapy is refused or unsuccessful, of the Courts transferring residence of the child (which parent a child should live with) to the other parent.

    Sometimes there are very real reasons for one parent to object to contact taking place. Expert assessment and advice is needed to identify those cases where there is a real risk to the child from a parent and those where the risk may be wrongly perceived.

    Early intervention in these cases is crucial to achieve the best outcome for the child to prevent the parties’ positions and those of the child becoming entrenched.

    Do you need any help?

    Experts skilled in exploring family dynamics and working with entrenched children are crucial in such cases to advise upon solutions without emotionally harming the child in the process of reintroduction of the alienated parent or in cases where a real risk is identified in ensuring safeguards are put in place.

    The key is to act before it is too late at an early stage when alienating behaviours become apparent. Our experts are skilled at identifying where this may be an issue and exploring effective ways forward. For more information, please contact our Family team who would be happy to advise you.

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