Taking care of a child whilst you’re going through a separation or divorce is something that is critical for the child but also something that parents find difficult to come to an agreement about. Most of the time, sitting down with your partner to discuss what should be done is a way of compromise. However, this isn’t always the case. Parental alienation can occur if one parent tries to distance the child from the other parent through methods such as manipulation. In order to understand if you can make a case in the family court, we’ve noted some common signs of parental alienation and the options you have to stop it. If you need legal advice regarding your child/children, contact us today and our expert team will be happy to assist.

The presumption is that a child should have a relationship with both parents, unless there is evidence that it is unsafe to do so.

What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation typically occurs when two parents are separated or are in the process of getting a divorce. It develops when a child displays hostility towards one parent without any reason and usually because of psychological manipulation from the other parent, in order to distance the child from the other parent. The manipulation doesn’t have to be malicious and deliberate. 

Although there isn’t a legal definition of parental alienation, it can be defined by a specific set of behaviours that the child displays over time. From the malicious parent’s side, they may:

  • Manipulate their child into believing the other parent is dangerous or shouldn’t be trusted.
  • Encourage disrespectful or defiant behaviour towards the other parent.
  • Blame the other parent for the failed relationship.
  • Tell the child that the other parent doesn’t love them.
  • Tell lies or talk negatively about the other parent.

Understanding and recognising the signs of parental alienation in the first instance is essential to prevent long-term damage to the child’s relationship with the other parent and the child’s views are well-established.

What are the signs of Parental Alienation?

If you are concerned about parental alienation, there are some signs that you need to look out for:

  • There are mostly negative feelings from the child towards the alienated parent.
  • There is no guilt from the child about the way they are treating the alienated parent.
  • The alienated parent faces constant, unfair criticism.
  • The child has no justification or evidence for treating their parent unfairly, or their reasoning behind it isn’t logical.
  • When questioned, the child claims that their views are their own, but they are actually being conditioned by the malicious parent.
  • They may refer to events that haven’t happened or that occurred before the child was born.
  • The malicious parent may attempt to contact the child excessively whilst they are with the other parent.
  • The child offers full support to the malicious parent.
  • The negative feelings don’t just stop at the alienated parent – they may extend to the alienated parent’s family, such as grandparents, cousins or aunts and uncles.

The effects of the manipulation on the child can be greatly influential. They may grow up to be very angry, lack empathy, become confrontational with others and feel neglected. Although there is no law in the UK that addresses parental alienation, family courts will step in when the situation affects the child’s welfare negatively.

How does the court take action against allegations of Parental Alienation?

If you feel that your child is a victim of parental alienation, we advise that you seek legal advice straight away. There are a number of options that you can proceed with to ensure that your child is safe from manipulation.

Child Arrangement Order

The Child Arrangement Order is created by the court and it notes the specifics regarding the arrangement for the child, including where the child will live and how the child’s time is split between the two parents. This is legally binding and must be followed by both parties. Anyone with parental responsibility can apply for this order. For example, if grandparents feel they are being restricted from seeing their grandchild, they can apply for a Child Protection Order.

In extreme cases, where there is emotional harm being suffered by the children, the Court may change a child’s living arrangements if parental alienation is identified and there is no other alternative to protect the child’s welfare interests.

Prohibited Steps Order

This order prevents the parent from certain activities that they may be able to partake in with the child. It also has the added benefit of preventing the malicious parent from exercising their responsibility to the child. Some of the activities that can be prevented may include:

  • Changing your child’s surname;
  • Taking them out of school;
  • Taking the child from the UK (this can be either on holiday or permanently moving away).

If you find yourself in a situation where the malicious parent is threatening any of these actions, then under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989, you can apply for this order. If you want to apply for this, you must be made aware that the child’s welfare is the number one priority for the court, which is the same for any order regarding children

Family Assistance Order

Although rare, usually with this order, Cafcass or a local authority works with the family to benefit the child. This may include providing guardianship for a child who is attending court with the parents or preventing the parents from speaking negatively about each other in front of their child. This order needs both parents’ consent to action. Failure to follow the court order can result in financial penalties, moving from your current home or even imprisonment. 

If the court finds that parental alienation is, in fact, present, they will decide on the level of severity and assess how the child’s welfare is being affected. The court will always try to offer reasoning to the parents, that they should take the right course of action for their child’s benefit. If this cannot be achieved, then the court may offer an order or arrangement, taking into consideration the child’s welfare at all times. 

Family Law advice from the experts 

If you are experiencing parental alienation, then it is important to spot the signs early and get expert advice. The team here at Beeston Shenton have a wealth of knowledge and experience in family law and understanding the complexities of the law surrounding the issues you may be having at home. If you need advice on parental alienation or would like to discuss any family-related law with a solicitor, contact us today to make an enquiry. Alternatively, you can take a look at some of our other services.