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Parental Alienation occurs when one parent emotionally and psychologically manipulates their child into displaying fear, hostility or disrespect towards their other parent. Having your child turned against you can be devastating, but Parental Alienation is becoming increasingly recognised by the family courts and taken into account during divorce, separation and children law proceedings.
If you are in a situation where your child is acting particularly hostile towards you because of the alienating behaviours of your former partner, we can provide advice on what you can do to resolve the issue.
Parental Alienation isn’t illegal in England and Wales like it is in some countries. However, courts are more frequently referring to the concept in family law cases, usually where the parents are divorced or separated.
Parental Alienation can take place in many circumstances. Often, it is the child’s resident parent (the parent they live with most of the time) whose aim is to disrupt and even eliminate contact with their non-resident parent. We have also helped individuals who have primary care of their child but have been undermined by the non-resident parent whose goal is to increase their level of contact or get full residence.
How our family law solicitors can help you with Parental Alienation
Our family law solicitors deeply understand the rejection, sadness, frustration and anger you may be feeling as a result of Parental Alienation. As a dedicated team of family lawyers with decades of combined experience, we are experienced at spotting the signs and risks of Parental Alienation early on. We will make the welfare of your child and your parental rights our top priority and take all possible steps to secure a positive outcome for your family.
Whether you are:
- A non-resident parent facing Parental Alienation by your child’s resident parent
- A resident parent facing Parental Alienation by your child’s non-resident parent
- A parent being accused of Parental Alienation
We are here to help.
We regularly advise clients going through divorce, civil partnership dissolution and separation proceedings. We also commonly help individuals experiencing ongoing parenting disputes with their former partner.
Why choose Crisp & Co for help with Parental Alienation?
Whatever your personal circumstances, we will approach your matter with sensitivity and a high level of expertise. As a specialist family law firm, we have an in-depth understanding of complex and controversial issues such as Parental Alienation that is rarely found at other law firms.
We are members of the Law Society Family Law Advanced Accreditation scheme for our expertise in challenging family law matters. We are also members of Resolution, an organisation that promotes the constructive resolution of family law matters.
Wherever possible, we can help you resolve separation and children related issues without having to step foot in court. Our team includes two qualified collaborative lawyers, Henry Crisp and Carol Christofi who have particular expertise helping individuals find success using alternative dispute resolution methods.
We also recognise that where Parental Alienation is involved, you may be unable to resolve the matter informally. We have extensive experience representing individuals in family court proceedings. We will skilfully bring issues of Parental Alienation to light and ensure that they are properly investigated and considered before the court makes any decisions.
Parental Alienation FAQs
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental Alienation, (also referred to Implacable Hostility, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Malicious Mother Syndrome or Malicious Parent Syndrome), is a condition whereby a child is manipulated by one parent to show hostility or resistance towards their other parent. Although sometimes referred to as ‘Malicious Mother Syndrome’, both men and women can display alienating behaviours that impact their child’s behaviour.
A parent may successfully alienate their child’s other parent using a range of behaviours, such as:
- Badmouthing or belittling the child’s other parent
- Forbidding the child to talk about the other parent
- Limiting contact
- Giving the child the impression that the other parent does not love them or want to spend time with them
It is important to remember that there are other reasons why a child may not want to spend time with a parent, such as domestic abuse. If you are being accused by your former partner of Parental Alienation and/or you are concerned that your former partner is being abusive, we can help you access a range of legal protections. For further information, visit our Domestic Violence Solicitors page.
What are the signs of Parental Alienation?
A child might be alienated if they show signs of behaviours such as:
- A black and white view of their parents - they will usually idealise one parent while devaluing and rejecting the other
- A ‘campaign’ of vilification against one parent
- Trivial, weak or outright false reasons to dislike or hate one parent, including false accusations of abuse
- Reactions that are disproportionate to their rejected parent’s behaviours
- Openly talking about their rejected parent’s shortcomings
- Revising history to diminish any positive memories they have of their rejected parent
- Automatically extending their dislike for the rejected parent to their family
- Feeling no guilt about their attitude towards the rejected parent
- Giving apparently memorised or rehearsed speeches about their rejected parent
- Claiming to be fearful but having an aggressive or confrontational attitude
- Acting cold and distant towards their rejected parent when in the presence of the alienating parent but becoming warm and friendly once they are alone with the rejected parent
How serious is Parental Alienation?
The courts usually place some weight upon the wishes and feelings of the child involved in the family law proceedings. The level of weight given usually corresponds with the child’s age and ability to engage in the process. Because of this, many parents facing alienation worry that a family judge may end up reducing their contact or changing the child’s residence because of wishes expressed by their alienated child.
Historically, professionals tended to automatically believe any allegations made by children. This often put victims of Parental Alienation at risk of domestic violence or child abuse accusations. In some extreme cases, the police or social services had to become involved. However, it is becoming more and more recognised that children are sometimes manipulated by one or both of their parents. For example, Cafcass, an organisation that supports and represents children through family law proceedings, now has dedicated information, support for parents, and guidance for professionals about Parental Alienation.
We fully understand and sympathise with these concerns. Our family law solicitors believe that it is important to act on allegations of Parental Alienation as early as possible to stop them escalating unnecessarily.
Ultimately, if the case does reach court, for example, during divorce or civil partnership dissolution proceedings, the judge’s decision will always prioritise the child’s welfare. Our aim would be to highlight the alienating behaviours as well as promoting the love, care and support you provide to your child to prove that it is in their best interests to have you meaningfully involved in their life.
Is Parental Alienation a crime?
Parental Alienation is not a crime in England and Wales, although some campaigners argue that it should qualify as a form of child abuse.
What do judges do about Parental Alienation?
Contact between a parent and their child is a fundamental element of family life and is almost always in the best interests of the child. Only in exceptional circumstances should contact be terminated, for example, due to welfare issues. As far as it is possible, family law judges are required to promote positive contact between parents and children and stopping contact will only ever be a last resort.
Judges in previous cases have said that courts should be reluctant to allow ‘Implacable Hostility’ (another term for Parental Alienation) to prevent contact, even if the alienated child is asking for contact to stop. In fact, depending on the circumstances of the case, a judge may even be inclined to transfer the child’s residence to prevent the alienating parent from alienating the child. However, each case will turn on its own facts and ultimately, the welfare of the child will always be considered paramount.
How do you prove Parental Alienation in court?
Because Parental Alienation cases are so complex, it is important to schedule fact finding meeting to deal with issues at hand as soon as possible. This could involve making the child a party to the proceedings and appointing a psychologist who specialises in Parental Alienation to assess the child and their parents individually and as a family unit. The psychologist’s expert evidence can then be used to guide the proceedings and decide whether Parental Alienation is an issue.