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Parental Alienation: What are the signs and how to stop it

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Parental Alienation: What are the signs and how to stop it

Parental alienation is somewhat of a buzzword in family law cases at the moment and refers to one parent attempting to sabotage or ruin the other parent’s relationship with the child.

In his latest article, Family Partner & Solicitor Simon Immins outlines what parental alienation is in more detail and looks at what legal steps you can take to prevent and resolve it.

What do family courts do about parental alienation?

When the court is asked to consider the living and contact arrangements of children with separated parents, they primarily consider the ‘ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned’.

The child’s age and understanding is vital when considering their expressed views and wishes. In genuine cases of parental alienation, this is an important balance that needs to be applied.

What is parental alienation?

Parental alienation (legally known as Alienating behaviours) is where one parent or carer has a negative attitude towards or talks negatively about the other parent or carer in front of the child.

This would be with the intention to undermine or even destroy the child’s relationship with their other parent or carer.

It is not a syndrome, despite the commonly held belief that it is, it is a pattern of behaviour often by one parent (but not always) aimed towards the child or children in the middle of a parental dispute.

How does an alienated child act?

An ‘alienated’ child will often refuse to have contact with the other parent. Not only that, they may also refuse to see other people such as professionals involved with trying to help the family.

It is not uncommon for any child caught up in proceedings to try to please their parents by saying what they want to hear, and the courts and Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) often understand this.

In addition, they will likely be much more definite in expressing what they believe are their own wishes; without realising that they are under the influence of the other parent.

What is an example of parental alienation?

Some examples of parental alienation include negative attitudes, communications and beliefs that unfairly criticise, demean, vilify, malign, ridicule or dismiss the child’s other parent.

It includes giving false beliefs or telling untrue stories to, and withholding positive information from the child about the other parent, together with the “relative absence of observable positive attitudes and behaviours.” (Johnston and Sullivan, 2020).

Related: What happens when two parents can't agree on their child's school?

Is parental alienation a crime in UK? / Is parental alienation illegal in UK?

Although parental alienation is not a crime, these behaviours can damage a child’s sense of self-identity and self-worth, as well as their connection with someone who is important to them and will remain important to them for the rest of their lives.

It can also damage the child’s connection with the ‘other side’ of their wider family. It is one reason why a child may reject or resist spending time with one parent or carer following their separation.

Related: Separated Parents - Can I take my child abroad?

Do courts take parental alienation seriously? /  Do family courts recognise parental alienation?

The court and Cafcass are aware that parental alienation can happen and Cafcass are trained to look out for signs of it in any case they are involved in.

How do UK courts deal with parental alienation?

In extreme cases, one option is to transfer the living arrangements of a child to live with the “alienated parent” and have contact with the parent who has been responsible for the alienation.

In less severe cases, the enforcement of the Order against the parent who is interrupting/interfering with the contact order by their behaviour is an option.

Read more about child orders here.

How do I prove parental alienation in court UK? / How do I prove parental alienation UK?

In cases where there is a very strong suspicion or possibility of parental alienation, the child will be appointed their own solicitor and guardian who will represent them in court.

The solicitor/guardian will try to convey the child’s genuine wishes and feelings to the court, or what the solicitor/guardian believes would be in the child’s best interests.

Court fees are definitely something to consider, read about all the fees involved here.

Bright and experienced Family Solicitors

If you have any questions following this article, or would like to instruct us to assist you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our bright Family Team.

We can provide tailored advice to your circumstances, and assist you in resolving an issue involving parental alienation.

We offer a free initial chat for all new clients, so you can speak to us to iron out the details and discuss your circumstances before committing to anything.

You can call us on 01202 499255 or fill out the form at the top of this page to find out more.

The content of this article, blog or video is not intended as specific legal advice. For tailored assistance, please contact a member of our team.