If you’re going through a divorce or separation, things often get stressful. Especially when kids are involved. If one parent negatively influences a child’s view or opinion of the other parent, it could affect them for the rest of their life. This is called Parental Alienation.
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental Alienation often occurs during a high conflict divorce or separation. It happens when one parent uses strategies to distance a child, or children from the other parent.
That said, there’s no legal definition of what parental alienation means.
Cafcass, describes it as;
“…when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.”
Just as there’s no legal definition, there isn’t a definite set of behaviours that fall under the term. However, alienating behaviours often include;
- Talking negatively or telling lies about the other parent
- Encouraging the child to be disrespectful or defiant towards the other parent
- Blaming the other parent for the breakup
- Manipulating a child to make them believe the other parent is untrustworthy or dangerous
An example of parental alienation might be when the mother tells her child their dad doesn’t love them. Or a father tells a child that mummy prefers her new family.
Accusations can be mild or severe. Either way, they distort the child’s view of the alienated parent. Regardless of how good their relationship used to be.
If parental alienation goes unchallenged, it could result in a full breakdown of the relationship. A consequence of this might be that one parent gets completely excluded from the child’s life.
8 Signs of Parental Alienation Syndrome
There are eight signs of parental alienation. If you’re worried that you’re becoming the alienated parent, look out for;
- The child constantly and unfairly criticises the alienated, or ‘targeted’ parent.
- They have no specific examples, no evidence and no justifications for the criticism. Or has false or illogical reasoning.
- The child claims that their criticisms are their own based on their own thinking. The reality is that the alienating parent ‘programs’ the child into this way of thinking.
- They use terms and phrases that sound like they’re borrowed from adult language. Or they refer to events that have never happened, or happened before the child was born.
- The child’s feelings towards the alienated parent are all negative.
- The child fully supports the other parent (sometimes called the ‘alienator’).
- The child has no feelings of guilt about hating or mistreating the alienated parent.
- Those feelings of hatred often expands towards family members of the alienated parent. These might include grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
How Parental Alienation Affects Your Children
A study conducted in 2016 surveyed 109 university-aged students. It found that children subjected to parental alienation may;
- Grow up to be angry
- Lack empathy
- See everything as ‘black and white’
- Become confrontational towards other people
- Experience more feelings of neglect
What to Do if You Feel Like You’re Being Alienated
Unfortunately, there is no law in the UK for dealing with parental alienation. That said, family courts can and will step in when a child’s welfare suffers as a result.
There’s a presumption that it’s in a child’s best interest to have a positive relationship with both their parents. Unless there are safeguarding issues.
So if you think your child is a victim of parental alienation, you should seek legal advice as soon as you can. There are legal options you can take.
Child Arrangements Order
You can make an application for a Child Arrangements Order. This will let you spend time with your child. Or for your child to live with you.
Prohibited Steps Order
You can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order if you believe the other parent may try to:
- Change your child’s school, or
- Change their name without your consent.
The court might order Cafcass or local authority to carry out a report and recommend how to progress the case. This could include;
- Supervising contact
- Meeting with both parents
- Speaking to the child
In some cases, Cafcass might conduct a psychological assessment of your child.
Family Assistance Order
The court could issue a Family Assistance order. In this case, Cafcass or a Local Authority will work with the family. This can only be done by the agreement of the parents.
In some circumstances the child may be party to the court proceedings. If so, they will be allocated a children’s guardian. They will instruct a solicitor and will put forward what they believe is in the children’s best interests.
The court can order both parents are not to speak negatively about each other to the children.
If the concerns for the children’s welfare are significant, the Local Authority may be asked to consider whether care proceedings should be issued.
If a parent fails to adhere to a court order, an application for enforcement can be made. There can be serious consequences for not complying with a court order. These include financial penalties, a change of residence, or even imprisonment.
What You Should Do Now
If you feel that your child has been subject to parental alienation, get in touch as soon as possible.
Our experienced family law solicitors are here to help..
Call Us on 01522 561020.