There is no strict definition of Parental Alienation in English law, but it is generally taken to describe a situation where a child has been deliberately manipulated, coerced or otherwise pressured to align themselves to one parent by the other parent. Usually, the consequence of Parental Alienation is that contact between the alienated parent and the child is frustrated, which can be damaging to the child in both the short and long term.
Some of the identifying markers of Parental Alienation are:
- An unjustified campaign of denigration against a parent (e.g. the alienating parent speaking ill of the other parent or stopping contact for no reason);
- Weak, frivolous and absurd rationalisations for the refusal to actively encourage or to enable the continuation of a relationship between the child and the other parent (e.g. making false allegations of abuse or harm);
- Indoctrination of the child’s thinking by the alienating parent to create a loyalty conflict (e.g. making the child feel guilty for wanting to spend time with their other parent);
- Use of words and scenarios which would not generally be in the child’s knowledge, vocabulary or understanding (e.g. where a child speaks of their other parent using language that is not age appropriate or where they repeat stories about their other parent which they should not or would not have known if it weren’t for the alienating parent); and
- Spreading of animosity to the extended family and friends of the alienated parent (e.g. where a child refuses to see or spend time with their other parent and anyone associated with that parent for no reason).
There is a presumption in English law that it is in a child’s best interests to know and have a relationship with both of their parents, so the courts are taking an increasingly robust approach to cases where Parental Alienation is alleged. In Brazil and Mexico, Parental Alienation is now recognised as a criminal offence, and in the US and Canada, the courts are very alive to the detrimental effects that Alienation can have on a child. It will be interesting to see whether English Law follows suit to either criminalise Parental Alienation or officially recognise it as a form of child abuse.
If you are concerned that you are at risk of being alienated from your child, it is important to seek specialist advice quickly so please do contact us on 020 3709 8975 today.