Bishop & Sewell

What is it?

In high-conflict divorce cases that involve children, Parental Alienation occurs when the child is psychologically manipulated by one parent against the other. 

Sometimes, if the child has experienced domestic abuse and high conflict between their parents they will align themselves with one parent, often expressing reluctance to spend time with the other. This is believed to occur as the child’s protection mechanism kicks in to try and avoid further conflict.

When a child refuses to go willingly to see the other parent, professional psychologists or psychiatrists are sometimes engaged to establish the root of that reluctance, and may conclude that it is the behaviour of the parent with care that has consciously or subconsciously “alienated” the child from the absent parent.

In less complex cases it will be obvious and intentional behaviour that leads to this reluctance. Where it is unintended and subconscious, things become more complex.

What can be done about it?

There have been many papers written about this subject and yet it remains one of the most difficult for our courts to resolve satisfactorily. Courts can only take a limited number of approaches when faced with a true parental alienation scenario. They can make orders for contact, try and enforce them, and as an absolute last resort make an order that the child lives with the “absent” or “alienated” parent. Or, they can mandate therapy for the parents, the whole family and the child, usually with psychologists or psychiatrists.

If you are being affected by Parental Alienation, please fill in the form on the right and one of our Family team will get back to you shortly, to discuss how we can help.

Alternatively, you can directly contact Louise Barretto Partner and Head of the Family & Divorce team or Catherine Longshaw also a Partner and member of the Family team to talk about the matter further.

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