19 June 2024

What is Parental Alienation? | Family Law UK | Kew Law

Parental alienation is the deliberate manipulation or coercion of a child by one parent towards the other parent.  It can be extremely traumatic for the child and wider family, and with no current legal definition, it can be a complex case to bring to court. Read on to find out more about how parental alienation is defined, whether it is classed as a crime, and how to resolve this type of dispute in the UK courts of law.

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Parental alienation explained

Parental alienation is a topic that commonly remains in the shadows, yet its consequences can be profoundly damaging, particularly in the context of family dynamics. Essentially, it is when one parent, known as the alienating parent, will manipulate or coerce a child into thinking negative things of the other parent, known as the target parent. This manipulation can be used in various forms, including false accusations, denigration, or limiting contact between the child and the ‘target parent’.

This manipulation over time will develop into an unjust hostility or rejection towards the target parent, often resulting in emotional distress for all parties involved, or a strained relationship between the parent and the child.

How is Parental Alienation defined?

Unfortunately, there is no current legal or fixed definition for parental alienation. However, CAFCASS, who is known to assist the courts in children matter cases, provides a brief definition on this, as follows:

“When a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent”.

Is parental alienation a crime?

In the UK, family law continues to prioritise the best interest of the child, in cases of separation or divorce. However, it is currently challenging when attempting to identify and address parental alienation within the present legal frameworks.

Seeing as there is no specific legislation dedicated to parent alienation, the courts will have to consider the child’s welfare and the evidence of manipulative behaviour towards the child.

One of the primary challenges faced is its validation and recognition within the legal system. It has been argued that the allegation of parental alienation is being used as a weapon in custody battles, therefore, leading to false accusations and causing further complications when trying to resolve conflicts.

Women’s Aid has released a brief on this matter, and they cover, in greater detail, the issues that arise in relation to domestic abuse and parental alienating.

“Parental alienation”: A dangerous and harmful concept – Women’s Aid (womensaid.org.uk)

Parental alienation: internal briefing for Women’s Aid Network

What are the impacts of parental alienation on families?

The consequences of parental alienation can be long-lasting and severe in some cases. Children may experience guilt, confusion, emotional stress, or turmoil as they navigate conflict loyalties between the two parents.

This can be a confusing and stressful time for children, therefore it is important that this issue is to be dealt with as quickly and as efficiently as possible, to reduce the risks of the child suffering more harm.

How to prove parental alienation

Parental alienation can be incredibly frustrating and upsetting for victims of it. It can also be a complex area when domestic abuse is involved.

Here at Kew Law, we are happy to help resolve this dispute and offer our support and expertise to get this resolved, to reduce the impact this will have on your child. We completely understand the importance and complications that arise as a result of this issue.

If this applies to you, and you are in need of help, please do not hesitate to get in touch whereby one of our specialist family lawyers would be more than happy to meet to discuss your situation and potential options. Head over to our contact page to arrange a meeting or call, or to reach out to one of our advisors.

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