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What is Parental Alienation?

A child shows symptoms of parental alienation to their divorce parent

Unfortunately, children can have some very negative experiences in some divorce cases. From younger children who may not understand why their parents are fighting, to older children who feel like they are being used as pawns in a chess game; there are a lot of ways that families can get pulled apart during an already tense situation.

Unless there is evidence that a parent has caused physical, or mental trauma to a child, most divorce cases try to ensure that a healthy relationship between the children and both parents continues after separation. This is made possible through regular visitation schedules.

However, in extreme cases, a parent may knowingly or unknowingly manipulate a child to reject the other parent, causing parental alienation.

Examples of Parental Alienation

In order to influence a child, an influencing parent may share lies about the other parent or regularly encourage the child to choose between the two parents. A parent may even hide gifts or messages from the other parent in order to persuade the child that they have been forgotten or abandoned.  The influencing parent may also impose a schedule on the other party, limiting access, while at the same time telling the child that the other parent doesn’t want to see them.

Signs of Parental Alienation

Over time a child that has been manipulated by one parent to distrust or hate the other may begin to change their behaviour towards the non-influencing parent. They may begin to blame the parent for the divorce and their current situation, or give the silent treatment and act as though they are a dangerous stranger. Extreme cases may even involve the child inventing stories of abuse.  Typically the non-influencing parent is completely blindsided by the child’s change in behaviour towards them.  In other cases, the non-influencing parent sees, or gets wind of the transformation, as it progresses.  In the latter case, it is extremely important that the non-influencing parent take the right steps to ensure that the relationship with the child is not lost.

If it is evident that a child has been influenced by your ex, it should be brought to the attention of the courts as soon as possible so that the situation can be rectified. Depending on how long the manipulation has occurred, it may be difficult to restore the relationship.

Acting in the Child’s Best Interests

In divorce cases, the goal is to provide solutions that work in the best interests of the child, regardless of how the parents feel about one another and the state of their relationship. Any sort of manipulative tactics or denial of access are legal issues and should be addressed in court.

If you believe that your child is being alienated or at risk of parental alienation, it is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. The trained family lawyers at Epstein & Associates can give important assistance and timely advice to help resolve the situation.