What Is Parent Alienation In Family Law?

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The term ‘parent alienation’ was coined four decades ago, when it was used by legal, psychology and social work academics and practitioners to describe a condition developed by children who have become alienated from one parent due to the manipulations of the other.

Another common term used in this space is ‘resist-refuse dynamics’, which is used to describe circumstances where, due to the other parent seeking to prevent their child from having an ongoing relationship with the other parent, a child resists or completely refuses to have a relationship with the alienated parent.

In complex family law matters, it is not uncommon for one parent to become alienated. This can have long-term effects on both the child and the parent who is being alienated and there are some ways the law can assist in repairing the relationship.

What does parent alienation look like?

Parent alienation can involve behaviours where one parent manipulates a child into becoming critical of, disliking and avoiding spending time with the other parent. Some children may go as far as entirely rejecting any relationship with the parent they have been manipulated into disliking.

Parent alienation is not the same as circumstances where one parent seeks to restrict their child’s contact with the other parent to protect a child from the risk of abuse, violence or neglect.

When does parent alienation occur?

It is common for parent alienation to occur during and after the process of separation, although it is also possible for parent alienation to happen at any point during the parents’ relationship, even if the parents are a couple. Parent alienation may occur slowly or be experienced through an immediate cessation of the child’s relationship with their parent.

Although most cases of parent alienation occur as a result of conduct by the other parent, it is also possible for parent alienation to occur without the intervention of either of the child’s parents. Sometimes, children simply decide that they no longer wish to spend time with one parent, and they may have legitimate reasons for doing so, even if their other parent encourages and promotes a strong and healthy relationship with both parents. Separation can be confusing and difficult for children to comprehend and process, so it is important to consider that parent alienation through the actions of the other parent is not always to blame. In these cases, it is crucial that the parents remain as communicative as possible and try to work together to understand why the child is alienating one parent.

Where can I seek assistance if my child’s other parent is alienating them against me?

In genuine cases of parent alienation, where the other parent of your child is being critical of you to your child and resulting in your child rejecting their relationship with you, you should seek to resolve the dispute with the other party in the first instance. If they do not cooperate, there is a range of professionals who can assist if your child’s other parent is using resist-refuse dynamics to alienate you.

Mental health professionals and therapists with experience in family disputes can help to resolve disputes and repair the damage caused by parental alienation. Parent alienation can be incredibly harmful for a child, particularly in the long term, so it is recommended that they have mental health support available to them.

Parties affected by parent alienation will benefit from the assistance of a family lawyer who can assess the case and advise on an appropriate course of action, including action involving the courts (if necessary).

If you need advice on the next steps to deal with parent alienation and resist-refuse dynamics being used against you, our experienced family lawyers can assist.

At Cairns Divorce Lawyers you will always speak to a Lawyer