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What does parental alienation look like?

Many parents struggle to adjust to parenting after divorce. However, some struggle more than others, especially in cases involving parental alienation.

As this article describes, parental alienation involves one parent's efforts to get a child to reject the other parent. In an effort to turn a child against a parent, the alienating parent may:

  • Fabricate abuse allegations against the alienated parent
  • Blame everything from a parent's unhappiness to the end of a marriage on the other parent
  • Constantly criticize the other parent
  • Keep a child from communicating or spending time with the alienated parent
  • Share with a child inappropriate information about the other parent
  • Make a child feel guilty for spending time with the other parent
  • Give a child gifts or opportunities the other parent was planning to give the child

A parent carries out these actions with the intention of poisoning a child against the other parent without justification.

Tragically, these efforts can cause considerable pain for both the child and the other parent. In fact, it could be considered child abuse. Alienation can make a child feel incredibly anxious, guilty, sad and confused. It can also rob a child of a meaningful relationship with a parent.

Taking action against an alienating parent

Considering all the damage parental alienation can do, it is crucial for parents to consult a lawyer and take seriously the legal remedies that may be available in these situations. 

Courts act to protect a child's best interests. In some cases, the courts will enforce an existing child custody order to ensure a child has the appropriate time with and access to both parents. This can give the alienated parent the opportunity to correct any alienating efforts by the other parent.

The courts could also penalize the alienating parent by reducing support payments they receive or possibly decreasing his or her parenting time with the child.

It is also important to take non-legal steps to protect a child from a parent's alienating behaviours. This includes keeping all interactions positive and refraining from discussing legal matters and parental conflict with the child. It can also be wise to explore counselling or therapy for the child that may help repair or minimize damage done to a child's well-being.

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