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What is Parental Alienation Awareness Day?

Today marks Parental Alienation Awareness Day, a day to raise awareness about a little understood issue. Originating from Canada, parental alienation involves one parent deliberately influencing a child and encouraging them to stop seeing or having contact with another parent.

What is this?

CAFCASS define parental alienation as being ‘when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.

In simple terms, it is one parent (normally the one who the child lives with) deliberately or accidentally saying things to the child about the other parent which results in the child viewing the other parent as being “bad” or from a negative viewpoint, and becoming hostile to them. Obviously, there are some situations where a child may be hostile towards a parent for a very good reason, including violence or neglect, but Parental Alienation is specifically in circumstances where there is no justified reason.

What are the signs of this?

The signs can include a child who has had a previously good relationship with a parent suddenly becoming very hostile and angry, rejecting discipline or refusing to see the parent. The difficulty is that these can, of course, be emotions that a child feels during a parental separation.

You may, however, hear comments said by your child which you know your ex-partner used to say which can be very shocking. You may also find that your child plays up more in front of your ex-partner or their family or that they say that they do not enjoy seeing you to the other parent when in fact your time together is actually always positive.

On the other hand, you may be causing Parental Alienation by saying things about your ex-partner to or in front of your child which they feel makes them choose or makes the other parent bad. This can be inadvertent, either by indirectly criticising their other parent or saying that they could do something and won’t or by asking your child to keep secrets about things which involve their other partner. If you are worried that you may be inadvertently causing this, there is support and help out there to help you change the way you parent.

What can the Courts do?

The Courts must have regard to a child’s welfare and where they are best placed to be cared for. One of these considerations is whether where a child lives affects their relationships with both of their parents. In extreme cases, where one parent will not facilitate a positive relationship with the other but the other will, the child’s residence can be changed. This is reasonably extreme but is not unheard of, and in some cases a necessity.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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