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Parental alienation - what is it and what should I do about it?

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There is no legal definition of parental alienation, however Cafcass recognise parental alienation as ‘when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.’

An example of this is when one parent tries to stop or prevent contact from occurring or encouraging a child to be hostile towards the other parent. There is no exhaustive list of behaviours which fall under the definition of parental alienation, but it can involve:

  • Encouraging the child to make false allegations against the other parent
  • One parent making negative comments about the other parent
  • Isolating a child from a parent
  • One parent encouraging disrespect or defiance towards the other parent

Any parent finding themselves in this situation should seek legal advice from a family solicitor immediately. Immediate intervention is required to ensure a healthy relationship between a parent and child is not jeopardised and to ensure the child does not suffer any long-term psychological harm.

If contact is being prevented from taking place and there is no justifiable reason for this it is important that contact resume as soon as possible to avoid any emotional harm to the child or irreparable damage to the relationship.

What should I do?

Firstly, it is important to engage with early therapeutic intervention as this may help the relationship between parents and in turn their relationships with their children. If parental alienation is allowed to continue it can lead to a complete breakdown in relationship. It is essential that parents put their issues to one side and focus on the welfare of the children involved and what is in their best interest. If you feel your relationship with your child is changing and you are having difficulties it is important to try and discuss this with the other parent first.

If parental alienation is still occurring, then a Children Act application can be made to the court. The court can then take action if they believe it is appropriate. In these circumstances Cafcass will assist the court by undertaking an assessment and providing recommendations to the court as to what is in the child’s best interests. This can lead to the court using their power to make orders which determine where a child should live and how much time they spend with each parent and in what circumstances that contact should take place.  

If you feel your child has been subject to parental alienation and you require the assistance of a solicitor, please speak to a member of speak to a member of our specialist family law team on 0161 696 6193,

By Nicola Horrocks, paralegal in the family law team