What is Parental Alienation?
Parental Alienation is unique to families who have separated or who are having a parenting dispute. Parental Alienation occurs when one parent manipulates the relationship between a child and the other parent, for their own benefit, damaging the relationship between the child and the other parent. The manipulator often sets out to destroy the relationship between the child and other parent by belittling and undermining the other parent.
Parental Alienation results in the child actively rejecting their relationship with the other parent and refusing to spend time with that parent, for no apparent reason or justification. The child’s rejection usually reflects the attitude of the alienating parent, not the child’s own views, and can have devastating consequences on the child’s long-term emotional development. It also has a devastating emotional impact on the parent who is separated from their child, which is often the aim of the alienating parent.
Common examples of conduct of an ‘Alienator’.
Parents, step-parents and/or grandparents can engage in alienating conduct. Some common behaviours include:
- Interfering with/monitoring communication between the child and the other parent;
- Deliberately speaking ill of the other parent in the child’s presence;
- Making unilateral decisions regarding the child’s long term welfare (eg moving residence or schools);
- Over-sharing unnecessary details of the separation with the child;
- Projecting their own fears and opinions of the other parent on to the child;
- Deliberately making the child unavailable to the other parent during scheduled times;
- Suggesting to the child, without justification or evidence, that the child has been the victim of abuse by the other parent.
Parental Alienation can be insidious. It can be difficult to detect the signs, or to differentiate it from other acts in a high-conflict separation. It is necessary to act quickly and obtain advice and help.
How and where to get HELP.
Steps should be taken quickly to address and stop the alienating parent’s conduct, to protect the child and the alienated parent.
Fortunately, our Family Law system recognises the child’s right to have a meaningful relationship with both parents following separation, so long as it is in the child’s best interests. This means the child has a right to have both parents involved in their life, to the maximum extent consistent with their best interests.
When one parent alienates a child from the other parent, this is contrary to the child’s rights. Steps can be taken to ‘break’ this cycle, but timing is critical.
Our Family Law system provides different ways to protect children and the alienated parent. These include:
- Family Therapy;
- Counselling for the child, and the parent/s;
- Mediation and arbitration (Alternate Dispute Resolution);
- Court Orders.
If therapy, counselling, or Alternate Dispute Resolution are not successful, the Court can make orders to provide for the child to spend time with the alienated parent, and if appropriate, make orders that the child not spend time with the alienating parent for a period of time.
It is important to prioritise the health and welfare of your child. Whether you are concerned that your child is being alienated from you, or you are being accused of being an alienator, it is critical not to over-share your concerns or opinions with your child.
Ensure you obtain support from an adult network. Psychologists and family therapists are able to assist you through the process.
Seek legal assistance
Allegations of Parental Alienation should be taken seriously and help should be obtained promptly. Parental Alienation has a serious impact on you, your child and your relationship with your child. It also has an impact on your family law case. If you are concerned about Parental Alienation you should seek urgent assistance from professionals.
If you require advice about what steps to take, please contact Dorter Family Lawyers and Mediators on (02) 9929 8840 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a confidential discussion.
Dorter Family Lawyers and Mediators offers specialist family law advice in McMahons Point on Sydney’s Lower North Shore. Rebekah Dorter and Bronwyn O’Loan are experienced Family Lawyers working with Parental Alienation and are available to assist you.
This post is an overview only and should not be considered as legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.