What is Parental Alienation?

Jan 04, 2019   ·   5 minute read
What is Parental Alienation?

Behaviour that a parent views as parental alienation may, to the other parent, be reasonable.

Children solicitors and family judges do not always agree on what amounts to parental alienation either, because parental alienation is a very subjective concept. However when a parent’s attitude towards their ex-partner steps beyond the line it amounts to parental alienation. The debate is normally where the line is crossed and what should be done about it.

The Definition of Parental Alienation

Lord Justice McFarlane defined parental alienation as:

‘’The turning of the mind of a child against  a parent by the other parent , either deliberately or inadvertently , resulting in the child holding a wholly negative view of the other parent and that negative view not being warranted by the other parent’s behaviour to the family or in the parent – child relationship.’’    

What Can You Do About Parental Alienation?

If you think your children have been alienated from you because of comments or actions on the part of your ex-spouse or partner then we recommend that:


  • Reflect and take time to look at your behaviour.

Have you made negative comments about the mother or father? If so, could they be aware of the comments and could that have escalated parental tension?  


  • Analyse why the children may be feeling negative about contact.

Could their attitude be in some way down to your behaviour or your new circumstances? For example have you had to rearrange many contact visits or not been able to get to school sports day? Do you have a new partner and stepchildren or have you moved home? Sometimes it is easy to blame your ex-spouse or partner for the children not wanting to see you. However sometimes it pays to be honest with yourself and look at whether the children’s views may be down to your behaviour or changes in your home circumstances.


  • Look at temporary alternatives to direct contact.

If contact has stopped as your ex-spouse has said, the children do not want to see you, then still try to maintain contact. Even if you cannot see the children, you may be able to send text, emails, cards and gifts. It can be hard to keep sending notes and messages to a child and get nothing back but it is important to persevere.

If your ex-spouse stops direct contact and you do not maintain indirect contact then it will be harder to restart the relationship with the children. It is hard to write and contact a brick wall but it is worth doing so that your children know that they are not forgotten.  


  • Don’t delay

If you think that parental alienation is taking place it can be hard to know what to do. Sometimes it is tempting to think that the best thing is to do nothing because you think the children will ‘’come round in time’’ or that your ex-spouse will mellow and let you see the kids.

If a long time goes by without seeing the children it will be harder to restart contact. Even if you fear that you have left it ‘’too late ‘’ remember the adage that it is ‘’ never too late’’.


  • Take legal advice

If your ex-spouse has stopped contact and it is down to parental alienation then take advice from a specialist children solicitor. Parental alienation can be difficult to prove and even trickier to sort out. It is therefore important that you get legal advice on your options.


  • Be open to alternative options

If you get legal advice from a specialist children solicitor, they will not necessarily advise you to start court proceedings. Expert solicitors should look at a range of options and work with you to make sure that your relationship with the children is resumed as quickly as possible and without causing additional animosity with your ex-spouse.

Alternatives to court proceedings for children orders include:

    • Mediation
    • Family therapy
    • Counselling
    • Round table meetings with solicitors


What Can a Judge do about Parental Alienation?

If you start court proceedings and the judge decides parental alienation is a possibility, the following orders can be made:

  • The appointment of a court appointed expert assessment to assess if parental alienation has occurred and the impact on the children ;
  • A child arrangements order so you can have contact with the children. The contact could be built up gradually at the pace of the children;
  • In extreme cases where a judge finds that the parental alienation has caused emotional harm the judge can change the primary carer of the child.    

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How can Evolve Family Law help you?

Evolve Family Law is a niche family law firm with offices in Cheshire and Manchester. We advise on all aspects of divorce, family, and children law. All of our solicitors at Evolve are specialists in either children or family finance law.

Our joint director Louise Halford has years of experience in representing parents in complex and highly emotionally charged children court proceedings. Many of her cases have involved allegations of parental alienation. Louise Halford tenaciously represents parents in children proceedings and secures children arrangement orders for access and contact in often highly complex and emotional cases. Louise Halford and the children law team at Evolve will work with you to help you reach a solution. Contact us today.