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Divorce law blog

What is parental alienation?

04/06/2019   By: Claire Molyneux

To coincide with International Parental Alienation Day (25 April 2019), the charity Families Need Fathers has petitioned the government seeking to make parental alienation a criminal offence. But what is parental alienation and should it be made a crime? 

Parental alienation exists when a child, without any good reason, rejects one parent completely. Most often (although not always) this rejection follows the child’s parents separating. The rejection is spurred on by one parent (the alienating parent) and results in the complete relationship breakdown between the child and other parent (the alienated parent). It is very different to a child who turns against a parent because of genuine harm or abuse. 

In some countries, such as Brazil and Mexico, parental alienation is a criminal offence. This means the criminal courts can impose sanctions such as a change in where the child lives or sentencing the alienating parent to prison. The reason why some in this country are calling for parental alienation to be made an offence is not to allow courts to impose similar sanctions (they are already available in the Family Court) but to raise awareness and deter parents from setting off down this road in the first place. 

Once a child is alienated from a parent, it is a long road to help them to recover. It is important for parents to remember that children see themselves as a part of each parent. If one parent is denigrated without good reason, it can affect a child’s self-esteem and lifelong outcomes. If you are the alienated parent, do not take it personally. A specialist in parental alienation, Dr Amy Baker, talks about continuing to remind an alienated child that you are there for them and that you love them – a crumb to you is a loaf to your child. 

Here at Mills & Reeve, our team of specialist children lawyers have experience of supporting parents who have been alienated from a child. We work with professional support networks to support you through the process of helping to undo any alienating actions brought about by your ex. If you are experiencing parental alienation in any form, please contact Hannah Wilson or Rose Marie-Drury


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