What is Parental Alienation?

Year Published: 2021

Separating couples who are unfortunately unable to maintain an amicable relationship may find putting the heartache and hostility aside difficult. Whilst many parents will try to detach themselves from these feelings to facilitate respectful co-parenting for the benefit of a child, there will be others that simply cannot look past the breakdown of the relationship and this can have a deleterious effect on contact arrangements. Zoe Worthington, Solicitor, outlines the key behaviours of parental alienation and what options are available if you believe you are a victim.

Behaviours of Parental Alienation

Parental alienation is a pattern of behaviour, either intentional or unintentional, that has the cumulative effect of breaking down the relationship between a parent and child.

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support service (Cafcass) recognise parental alienation as ‘when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is a result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.’

Behaviour of the alienating parent can include:

  • Coaching a child in a particular way
  • Discussing issues that arose in the relationship or other inappropriate adult topics
  • Pointing out the other parent’s flaws or telling the child that the other parent is a risk to them
  • Encouraging rude or offensive language towards the other parent
  • Limiting contact

Sometimes manipulation will be plainly obvious, particularly if a child begins to use mature terminology to explain why they do not want to see a parent, such as ‘my dad has never shown any commitment’ or ‘my dad is a waste of space’. Other times, manipulation is much more subtle and will require careful professional assessment to establish.

What Help is Available?

If your case is already within the court process, Cafcass will carefully consider any allegations of parental alienation and, although a complex issue, will use their professional judgement to try and determine if a parent is displaying alienating behaviours. Cafcass would then consider whether it is safe and in the child’s best interest to have contact with both parents and provide their recommendations to the court.

If your case is not within the court process, we would recommend speaking to a solicitor at an early stage for some initial advice. Where parties are appropriate candidates, we will always recommend mediation as a starting point so that the issues can be discussed in a neutral and safe environment.

If you have any concerns or questions about parental alienation and would like to discuss what options are available, please contact Zoe Worthington, Solicitor, on 0161 475 1234 or email [email protected].

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