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What is parental alienation and how does it impact the child?

Parental alienation is a form of psychological abuse against both the child and the absent parent. This is usually caused by one parent’s psychological manipulation of a child, resulting in the child becoming hostile or showing resistance to one parent.

What behaviour creates parental alienation?

This behaviour may involve one parent speaking in a derogatory manner about the other parent, perhaps belittling them or not allowing the child to talk about them, restricting contact with that parent, or doing anything that would impinge on a child’s ability to enjoy time and connection with the other parent. One parent may make the child believe that the other parent is not able to look after them adequately, making the child reliant upon them rather than the other parent. As a result, the child may become concerned the other parent does not love them or cannot be trusted.

Is behavioural manipulation always obvious?

Sometimes the absent parent will realise what is happening due to the child’s behaviour and the way the child is expressing themselves, while other times the parent may not realise why their child is behaving differently; they may notice their child is being more distant with them or is concerned about returning to the other parent on time, or the child chooses not to do certain activities with them.

What can happen once parental alienation has been identified?

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) can become involved in your family’s affairs if there is evidence that one parent is attempting to alienate the child from the other parent. They will seek to assess the risk of emotional harm to the child, which can be so severe in some cases that there is a child protection issue.

There will be separate assessments of the child and both parents and from this Cafcass will prepare a report to the Court with recommendations on how to deal with the issue. It may be appropriate for the parents to attend a Separated Parents Programme or have other family support.  

What can I do if I notice signs of parental alienation?

If you believe that your child is showing any signs of parental alienation, it is important to seek help at an early stage. The sooner the situation can be assessed, the sooner arrangements and interventions can be put in place to protect the child’s best interests.

This is something our team are experienced in advising on and offering support with. Should you want any further advice on this or any other family matter, please contact Associate Solicitor Jane Chandler on 0121 685 1234 or j.chandler@qsdavsions.com.

Posted in: Family law

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