Parental alienation in divorce and separation

Atifha Aftab

Article written by Atifha Aftab, Family Solicitor

The notion of parental alienation is a growing concern for parents that separate on acrimonious terms. Divorce and separation can conjure negative reactions in people who may feel a sense of hurt or upset and this can in turn cause friction. This article explores parental alienation – what it is and how it can impact children along with steps to deal with it and where possible, prevent it.

What is parental alienation?

Parental alienation refers to a child’s hostility and/or resistance towards one parent which is unjustified. This is usually the result of psychological manipulation from the other parent and could lead to the child not wanting to spend time with one parent in the aftermath of separation. Warning signs can include extremely negative views, seeing one parent as “good” and the other “bad”, hostility towards said parent’s family and friends and a lack of remorse regarding hurt to their feelings.

How can parental alienation impact children?

Parental alienation can have a significant psychological impact on children insofar as the other parent can be viewed as “dangerous”. Children can develop feelings of conflict with the alienating parent, and this can lead to feelings of lack of trust, low self-esteem, and self-hatred on the child’s part. Alienated children can suffer from isolation and loneliness, poor performance at school, in physical activities and conflict with others around them.

Steps to deal with parental alienation

If you are the victim of alienation, the first step would be to raise this with the other parent, if possible. If misunderstandings can be cleared up early, it may prevent further damage being done. We would also suggest you keep a record of events. If the other parent attempts to restrict contact and you feel there is no valid reason for them to do this, you could request this formally in writing and this can be used if the matter proceeds to Court. We recommend any alienated parent remains persistent as failing to do so may strengthen the concerns of the child and present the other parent with the opportunity to argue that they were justified in their behaviour.

It is important to address parental alienation at the earliest opportunity, if possible. This will help to prevent further damage to the relationship with the child. As lawyers, we can write to the other parent to propose mediation in an effort to understand the issues involved and identify solutions to help to resolve the problems, as swiftly as possible.

For more information or to discuss a family law matter in further detail, please feel free to email me or contact the Family department on 020 8858 6971.