What is parental alienation?
What is parental alienation?
July 5, 2023

Parental alienation refers to a situation where one parent manipulates or influences a child to reject, fear, or have negative feelings towards the other parent. It involves actions or behaviours that seek to undermine the child’s relationship with the targeted parent. The term “parental alienation” is explored in greater detail by CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service), which is an organisation in England and Wales that provides guidance and support to families involved in the court system. Learn about alienating behaviours on the CAFCASS website.

Parental alienation poses significant dangers to the welfare of a child. When a child is subjected to parental alienation, their emotional and psychological well-being can be severely impacted. The child may experience confusion, stress, and a sense of loss. They may develop feelings of anger, guilt, and rejection towards the targeted parent. This can lead to a breakdown in the parent-child relationship and, in some cases, the complete estrangement of the child from the targeted parent.

What are the consequences of parental alienation?

The consequences of parental alienation can be long-lasting and detrimental to a child’s development. The child may suffer from low self-esteem, difficulties forming healthy relationships, and emotional instability. They may also exhibit behavioural problems and struggle academically. The alienated parent, too, may suffer from emotional distress and a sense of loss due to the damaged relationship with their child.

Parental alienation does not necessarily take the form of overt criticisms of the other parent but can instead come from the child mirroring a parent’s behaviours towards the alienated parent.

What is parental conflict?

It is important to note that parental alienation is distinct from parental conflict, although both can be harmful to a child. Parental conflict refers to ongoing disagreements, hostility, or disputes between parents, often arising from unresolved issues related to their separation or divorce. While parental conflict can create a challenging environment for a child, parental alienation specifically involves the child’s relationship with one parent becoming damaged, strained and generally adversely affected due to the behaviour of the other parent.

Both parental alienation and parental conflict can have detrimental effects on a child’s well-being. In cases of parental conflict, children may be exposed to constant arguments, tension, and negative emotions, which can lead to an intolerable living environment for the child. Witnessing such conflict can lead to insecurity, anxiety, and a sense of divided loyalty. The child can become worried about seeing the parents together at handovers or schooling events. It can also impact their emotional and psychological development.

While the impact of parental conflict and alienation on children can be different, they share the common factor of causing distress and disrupting healthy parent-child relationships. Both situations can create an unhealthy and unstable family environment, negatively influencing a child’s overall welfare.

In circumstances whereby both parents will inevitably want what is best for their child, open communication is key in avoiding these damaging behaviours.

Laws Surrounding Parental Alienation

The law in England and Wales recognizes the importance of promoting the welfare of children in family matters. In cases involving parental conflict or alienation, the court may intervene to ensure the child’s welfare is protected by making orders for child arrangements, such as determining who the child lives with and how often they spend time with the other parent. The court has broad powers when determining the child’s welfare and can also order that the child lives with the other parent in the proceedings.

When parental alienation is suspected, the court can take various actions to address the issue. This may include ordering assessments, appointing guardians or experts, and implementing therapeutic interventions to facilitate the restoration of the parent-child relationship.

In conclusion, parental alienation refers to the manipulation or influence of a child by one parent to reject the other parent. It poses significant dangers to the child’s welfare, impacting their emotional and psychological well-being. Parental conflict, while distinct, also has negative effects on children. Both parental alienation and parental conflict can disrupt healthy parent-child relationships and require intervention to protect the child’s best interests.

Family Solicitor Near Me

Overcoming these issues can be extremely difficult to navigate on your own. If you feel as though you will benefit from legal advice to assist you with any of the issues set out above, please contact the team at Bridge McFarland LLP to make a preliminary appointment. You can call us on 0800 987 8800 or fill in this contact form.

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