Parental alienation is a relatively new concept, which drives parents and children apart in separated families. To find out more, you came to the right place…
Parental alienation can be devastating and stressful, for both the parents and the children involved. It’s a lesser-discussedphenomenon in the world of family law, and has recently become a growing concern in the family courts.
Parental alienation is all about manipulation of one party towards the child, against the other party. It’s particularly common where parents are divorced or separated, and often requires solicitors to get involved along the way.
At the moment, “parental alienation” is a loose term, but it’s becoming more defined the longer it’s recognised. So, what do we know about it, so far? To discover more about this phrase, when it may occur, and how to prevent it, don’t go anywhere…
What is Parental Alienation?
There is no set definition of parental alienation but, generally, it’s where one parent (usually the parent who the child lives with) psychologically manipulates their child into displaying fear, hostility or disrespect towards the other parent after separation. This can result in a child resisting or completing rejecting spending time with that parent. It is sometimes referred to as ‘Malicious Mother Syndrome’, however, the behaviour has been noted in both men and women.
Now that we know a little more about it, how can it be spotted, and what specific actions can cause this upsetting situation? For the signs and cause-factors of parental alienation, read on…
Signs of Parental Alienation
Causes of Parental Alienation
Top Tips on Avoiding Parental Alienation
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to avoid parental alienation. That being said, there are some things you can do to mitigate the risk, including:
While going through a divorce or separation, it’s important to make sure that the needs of your child are put first. You’ll likely need to decide on who the child will reside with, how they’ll be brought up (religion/schooling etc.) and make financial arrangements. There’s certainly a lot to think about.
It’s important to try to come to an amicable agreement with your former partner as quickly as possible, as any delays in negotiations can put your child’s emotional welfare at risk. A mediator can help you to sort through any issues you may have. It’s also important to communicate with your child, and reassure them that both yours and your former partner’s relationship with them will not change, despite the separation.
Going through a separation or a divorce is a stressful time and it can be hard to put on a brave face in front of your child. Therefore, if you’re struggling, it’s important to seek supportor counselling to help you through the transition. This will help you to be better equipped, mentally, should you identify any behaviours in your child that could be a result of alienation.
During a separation or divorce, try to be consciously aware of your children’s behaviour and the things that they say. Children will often say negative and positive things about their parents, however, it’s important to give more attention to the positive comments than the negative ones.
You can lead by example with your own behaviour as a parent, by regularly talking positively about your ex-partner,and making a point of calling out your own negative behaviour to your child. This way, you can make sure that they know your relationship ending does not affect either yours or your ex-partner’s relationship with them.
If you are concerned that your child is being turned against you by your ex-partner, it’s important to seek advice as soon as possible to prevent this behaviour from escalating, and to protect your child. First, talk to your partner, and if it doesn’t stop, talk to a lawyer or a family mediation service who can take you through the next steps.
Top Tips on Dealing with Parental Alienation
As a parent, having your child turn against you can be very upsetting. That said, there are ways you can help to avoid it or deal with it if it has already happened. If you’re already in a situation where you believe you’re being alienated by your ex-partner, the following steps can help you to get on top of the situation…
It’s important to not that unusual behaviour from your child may not necessarily be the result of parental alienation by your ex-partner. For example, they may be a victim of domestic abuse or bullying that is making them behave in this way.
If you feel comfortable doing so, try to talk to your child one-on-one to see if they will open up about how they’re feeling. Or, perhaps there is a person in your family who they would be more likely to talk to, who can help. If you’re not sure how to tackle it, or you’re concerned about your child’s welfare, it’s important to seek legal advice immediately.
If possible, talk to your ex-partner about your concerns regarding your child’s behaviour. They may have spotted similar behaviour when they are with your child, and you can work together to help resolve this. However, if it’s not possible, or you don’t feel safe talking to your ex-partner, speak to a family mediator or lawyer who can advise you on the best course of action.
What Happens if I Need to Take Legal Action About Parental Alienation?
Although parental alienation is not illegal in England and Wales, allegations of this nature are still taken very seriously. In order to prove that your ex-partner is turning your child against you, there’s a process for these proceedings.
First, you may need to attend a fact-finding meeting, which might involve a child psychologist who is a parental alienation expert. They can assess your child, you and your ex-partner. Any evidence gathered at this meeting can be used as evidence of parental alienation.
In cases where parental alienation has been identified, you may need a course of intense therapy for parents to change their behaviour. If this is refused, or is ultimately unsuccessful, then the outcome will be decided by the court.
If the case of parental alienation goes to the family courts, judges will always put your child’s welfare before anything else. A certain amount of weight will be given to your child’s wishes, which is dependent on their age and the ability to understand what is happening.
It’s important that your child is in contact with both their parents; contact will only be terminated under extraordinary circumstances. This is an extreme measure, and your lawyer and the judge will help you to achieve the best outcome for you and your child.