What is parental alienation?
Parental alienation cases are often the most complex and difficult for both practitioners and the courts to deal with. They require expert intervention such that we provide at Goodsells Family Law. The experience of parental alienation is serious, and its impact can change the course of the life of a child.
At Goodsells, we are often approached by parents who, following the breakdown of a relationship, are being excluded from their children’s lives.
In our view, it is imperative to identify the situation as early as possible and to act before your former partner has made significant changes in the children’s lives, which either relegate you to the periphery, or worse, exclude you altogether. Of course, to perpetrate parental alienation is not the exclusive domain of one gender but usually that of the children’s primary carer.
Parental alienation often occurs when the ‘resident parent’ subjects the child to an unrelenting campaign of hostility towards the other parent. Such behaviour on the part of the resident parent may not be deliberate but a consequence of their inability separate their own feeling of hostility towards their former partner from the child’s relationship with them.
In other cases, the manipulation is a deliberate effort to implant and propagate negativity in the mind of the child towards the other parent. In such cases, the child will often regurgitate adult phraseology and antipathy without understanding the nature of their words and often not truly feeling their truth.
In such situations the resident parent is subjugating the emotional welfare of the child and prioritising their own, personal feelings of hostility towards their former partner, at significant cost to the child’s emotional wellbeing.
How to recognise parental alienation
Parental alienation can take many forms. Some common signs are for the resident parent to make unfounded allegations against the other. Such allegations include domestic abuse against themselves or the children, invariably involving the local authority and/or police, who will thoroughly investigate the allegations, during which time contact is often forbidden.
Alternatively, the parent may tell the child the other parent does not love them. More subtle efforts to alienate a parent involve speaking negatively about them, giving excessive reassurance to the child when preparing them to spend time with the other parent, or contacting the child repeatedly during such contact.
How to stop parental alienation
Parental alienation is tantamount to emotional abuse; the longer such abuse is allowed to continue unchecked, the longer the child is exposed to the inevitable damage.
It is essential to seek early legal advice to explore options. If a negotiated agreement for you to spend time with your child is not possible, it may be necessary to file an application for a Child Arrangements Order to the court.
Time is of the essence; it is important to take decisive action and seek professional intervention without delay. Such may include asking the court to list a Fact-Finding hearing to determine the veracity of allegations one parent makes against the other, that CAFCASS, or an independent Social Worker explore and report on the family circumstances or possibly, that a Guardian be appointed to represent the children’s position separately. This is particularly where the resident parent is ‘implacably hostile’ to the concept of the child spending time with their former partner.
All these professionals should be very familiar in dealing with cases of parental alienation and will focus upon promoting the children’s welfare. In such cases, the professional should have sufficient experience and expertise to analyse the ‘wishes and feelings’ as expressed by the child, which are likely to have been implanted by the resident parent.
The professional should be expertly equipped to review the family circumstances, consider the welfare of the child, inform the court of their observations and recommend a way forward. Any such recommendation would focus upon what outcome is in the child’s best interests.
Will the court allow me to spend time with my child in a case of parental alienation?
I am very happy to say that the court possesses a duty to promote contact between you and your child. It is generally recognised that your child’s best interests and emotional welfare are met if you remain part of their life. The court will focus upon what remedial action is necessary to ensure that the interests of your child can best be met; your child’s welfare is the court’s paramount concern.
The court will make an order only if your former partner cannot be persuaded to cease their alienating behaviour and promote contact. An order for ‘child arrangements’ will be for your former partner to make your child available to spend time with you.
In some cases where the parent fails to comply with the court order, the court will exercise its power to transfer your child’s residence, that they reside with you and that responsibility rests with you to allow the child to spend time with their other parent.
What is the effect of parental alienation?
Studies show that a child who is alienated from one parent can suffer significant emotional harm, such that the consequences are long term and sometime irreparable. Parental alienation can cause mental health problems, low self-esteem and often manifests itself in the child’s efforts to sustain future adult relationships.
I, Donna Goodsell, am a family law solicitor who can assist you in all matters related to parental alienation. I understand how difficult this situation may be for you and will always provide an empathetic service tailored specifically to the needs of you and your family.
I am a highly skilled family law solicitor with over 25 years’ experience. I am available to provide an expert and personal service in relation to parental alienation.