Tasha Bevan-Stewart and Natasha Hood, in our Family Law team, explain what Parental Alienation is.
When a relationship breaks down, children can be drawn into the difficult dynamic between separated parents. In some cases, a parent may try to get the child to ‘side’ with them in the divorce, and can engage in behaviour that can alienate the children from the other parent.
One unfortunate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is an increase in the number of cases we see where a parent is prevented from seeing their child by the other parent.
What is Parental Alienation?
The Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (CAFCASS) supports and advises families and the court in cases involving children. CAFCASS acknowledges there is no single definition for parental alienation – but broadly defines it as a situation where ‘a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent’.
What are the signs?
Each case involving parental alienation is different but common features are:
- The constant badmouthing or belittling of one parent by the other parent;
- One parent limiting contact between the other parent and the children;
- One parent forbidding the children discussing the other parent;
- Creating the impression that the other parent dislikes or does not love the child;
- Denying the children attention to create dependency on that parent;
- Creating the impression that the other parent is dangerous.
However, it is important to remember that just because your child shows any of the above indicators it does not necessarily mean that you are being alienated.
The situation is often very complex; and you should seek expert help from a counsellor and legal adviser if you believe this is happening in your separated family.
What are your options if you are being alienated from your child?
Although parental alienation is becoming widely recognised, it is not a criminal offence. Parental alienation can seriously damage one parent’s relationship with the child; and so prevention is always the best option.
Here are some useful steps to take to prevent Parental Alienation:
- Keep a log of all the dates that the other parent has stopped contact between you and the child, together with the reasons.
- Discuss your concerns with the other parent to identify any issues or misunderstandings (it may be useful to note any response).
- When discussing contact communicate by text or by email so that you have a written record.
If discussions with the other parent deteriorate or contact with your child becomes limited or non-existent it would be advisable to obtain legal advice. Obtaining legal advice could be beneficial and encourage the alienating parent to engage in discussion
Depending on your circumstances an application to the court for a Child Arrangements Order may be required.
Child Arrangement orders are made in cases where it’s necessary for the court to intervene and set out where your child will live and when they will spend time with each parent. Furthermore, the order provides you with enforcement options should the other parent breach the order.
For further information or legal advice, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0118 951 6800.
This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.