Parental Alienation

Two young children

“She would love me to disappear from our son’s life. I have been resisting this but any contact with him has been very much on her terms and rules“…. a comment made by a distressed father from Bath, to me, whilst experiencing the syndrome known as “Parent Alienation”.

‘Parental alienation’ is the broad term given to the deliberate attempt by one parent to distance his/her children from the other parent. The motivation is to destroy the parental bond between his/her children with the other parent. Courts have started to recognise that the dynamic and presence of parental alienation are real in some families.

“I think it unlikely that he will promote and encourage the boys’ relationship with their mother” – the response to that is often “I’m prepared to “fight” by whatever legal means necessary to ensure I have contact. I expect a great deal of resistance to this; however I believe this is what my sons want”

Restorative justice isn’t something that the Family Courts often promote and the compensation provided by them is often far less than the loss experienced. The parent denied or with limited contact with a child often feels that his/her rights have and are being compromised. In fact, that parent can feel that he/she only has such rights as the other parent, or the Family Courts, can be persuaded to grant him/her.

So, what can the denied or restricted parent do?

Consider working with a mental health professional i.e. a child specialist, to rebuild your relationship with your child if it has suffered damage. When a parent reaches out to a child there are no guarantees that their efforts will pay off but, if no effort is made, the chance of re-building the relationship is remote. Here are a few tips for parents who are attempting to reconnect with an estranged child, even when court proceedings are underway

  • Always accept whatever contact to your child is on offer, no matter how low – or absurdly low. If you accept a two-hour visit, you have established that two-hour visits are workable; if you refuse a two-hour visit, the resident parent can argue that two hour visits are not workable and should not happen.
  • Do absolutely everything possible to make contact work, i.e. no arguments, no recriminations, no harsh words. Do not be late. Do not do anything that crosses a line without the most profound consideration. Do not indulge in tit-for-tat.
  • Always remember that the Court’s primary concern is whether the contact has worked i.e. been glitch-free and not so much with whose responsibility it was that it did not work. If contact is said to be causing difficulties, then even if those difficulties are caused by the resident parent, your case will become a difficult case where the Courts will be far less likely to intervene on your behalf. So we must make contact work!

Article by Richard Sharp

Richard is dedicated to helping clients avoid the trauma of prolonged conflict by finding solutions that benefit them and their families. He works to resolve complex financial situations, protect assets acquired over lifetimes, prioritise the needs of children, and reach outcomes that are fair for all parties.