Alienation tends to happen where the parents are involved in very bitter litigation. In family law, the terms “alienation” and “estrangement” relate to the breakdown of a child’s relationship with a parent. While children can sometimes become estranged from one parent for a good reason (e.g. if they are abused by that parent), sometimes the other parent’s behaviour contributes unfairly to the bad relationship. This may occur where one parent, for example, makes negative comments about the other parent to the child, says that the child is in danger when with the other parent, or suggests that the activities, meals and living conditions offered by the other parent are somehow deficient. If such conduct is occurring, there is real risk the child is being alienated. There are many more types of conduct that can lead to alienation.
The consequences of parental alienation or even attempted alienation can be quite serious, and can sometimes cause irreparable damage. This damage may be to the child-parent relationship or to the child.
There are many signs to watch out for in what your children are doing. For example, there may be one or more of the following: grumbling about having to see the other parent, preferring one parent over the other, comments that he or she doesn’t like the other parent, or making bizarre or unlikely claims about the other parent’s conduct. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg if alienation is taking place. Basically, any conduct or comment suggesting the relationship with the parent is not being valued or has been broken should cause concern.
When parental alienation is suspected, it is crucial to deal with the situation as soon as possible. A formal child assessment (aka a “section 211 report”) should be prepared by a psychologist or other mental health professional. The professional will interview the parents and the children, and may give the parties a psychological test. If alienation is proven, the innocent parent is often able to get a court order requiring counselling for the child and the parents and establishing a plan of how the parties can heal their bonds.
We are experienced in alienation matters and can help.