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What Is Parental Alienation?

Posted on 29th October 2020 by Goodwins Family Law Solicitors

Unfortunately, not every divorce is amicable, and sometimes divorced or divorcing parents will try and unjustly turn their children against the other parent – this is known as parental alienation. Not only is this an emotionally distressing tactic for the parents and child alike, but it can also have legal implications. 

In this article, we explore what parental alienation might look like, how it might affect your child and the rest of the family, and what to do if you suspect your child is being turned against you by an ex-spouse. 

Child

What is parental alienation? 

Parental alienation can sometimes occur during the divorce or separation of two parents, and refers to the act of one parent seeking to psychologically manipulate a child to turn against the other parent, often when it is unjustified. The motivation for a parent to engage in these tactics can be fuelled by anger, sadness, a feeling of injustice, or a desire to emotionally harm their ex-spouse. In some cases a parent may be driven to behave this way to try and gain a financial advantage, in any financial proceedings between the parents.

However, parental alienation is not necessarily always deliberate. It may simply be caused by one parent’s negative attitudes towards another parent influencing a child in a more subtle, inadvertent way – also, one parent refusing to speak about another parent at all may also be a factor. 

Like with everything else in life, children look to adults for advice or guidance on how to behave and what to think, making young children particularly susceptible to parental alienation tactics. 

What are the effects of parental alienation? 

The psychological effects of parental alienation can be very damaging to a child’s emotional wellbeing both in the present and the future. 

The result of parental alienation can include a child displaying animosity or dislike towards one parent when previously they might have had a close, loving relationship. The child may also be reluctant or averse to the idea of spending time with the parent in question. 

Of course, this may occur for different reasons that have nothing to do with parental alienation. For example, it may be a child’s own way of coping with the separation, or a way of them expressing their anger or other emotions – in some cases, it can be a result of the child remembering past violence or arguments in the home. You must, therefore, be careful to explore these other options before accusing another parent of parental alienation. 

Parental alienation and the law 

As a highly complex and individual issue, parental alienation behaviours will be different in every situation in which they occur. There are no hard and fast rules concerning whether parental alienation has legal ramifications, and it instead must be considered and explored on a case-by-case basis, usually as part of a larger case e.g. child custody proceedings. Ultimately, the courts will decide what is in the best interests of the child depending on the evidence, and this will include whether a child should see a parent and how often. 

Your family law solicitor can advise on these issues, along with other elements of the divorce, such as child custody and separation agreements. Their representation can be a guiding, expert hand through the difficulties presented by parental alienation. 

Here at Goodwins Family Law Solicitors, we offer specialist legal representation for families across London and the South East. With over 25 years’ experience, our family lawyers understand the emotional ups and downs of divorce situations and are here to bring sound legal advice in these distressing times. To discuss your situation with our experts, please contact us today

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