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Separated Parents with child in the middle

Parental alienation

| Published on December 7, 2021

What is this and how does it happen?

 

This is when a child becomes estranged from one parent as a result of the influence of the other parent. It is manipulation and a psychological detriment to the child.
Parental alienation can happen at any time whether within a family unit but more likely to happen when two parents separate.

Some consider parental alienation to be child abuse.

Parents can be alienated from their children during the parents’ relationship if the relationship is struggling with one parent trying to influence the children to see the other as uncaring or unreasonable. It is quite usual for one parent to work longer days and hours than the other parent to meet the financial needs of the family thus forfeiting quality time with the children. The children could be influenced by the other parent to think that the parent working all the time does not care as much about them and they should not rely on that parent.

When parents are involved in Court proceedings regarding their children and an application has been made under the Children Act 1989 for a Child Arrangements Order or any other Order available within the Children Act then the parent unable to see the child or children may suggest this is because they are being alienated from the child by the other parent.

One may accuse the other of coaching the child to dislike them. Changing the arrangements for a parent to see the child or not allowing a parent to see the child at all is part of the alienation. Also, refusing to include a parent in any school or extra curricular activities the child may be doing together with suggesting to a school that the other parent should not be involved is alienation.

Some say alienation is rare. Others will disagree and suggest that parents will sometimes make false allegations about the other parent’s behaviour during the relationship to stall or prevent them seeing the children. Certainly, the Court process can take months during which time a parent may not be permitted to have direct contact with their children until evidence is provided that either allegations are false or that they have addressed any faults raised and the children involved are therefore not at risk of any harm.

Children sense hostility between the parents and despite loving both parents may feel they have to protect one more over the other because of what is said to them.
The Court can only be guided by the evidence presented to them. It is therefore difficult in some cases to prove alienation.

The rejected parent and the children suffer immensely from parental alienation.

It is essential that a parent understands that it is critical to recognise that children are at risk of harm when parents separate. Research shows that unresolved parental conflict is harmful to children. It is unacceptable for parents to involve their children in the conflict between themselves. Any conflict due to the breakdown of a relationship or marriage should be dealt with by the two people involved without involving the children.

As long as the children are not at risk of harm with either parent, the parents should be encouraging and supporting their continued relationship with the other parent and extended family. The time the children spend with each parent will change upon separation but the children should be made to feel that they do not have to choose sides.

The reality is that the effect of being alienated from one parent can continue into the future affecting the child’s own relationships with future partners and with their own children. Reports available say parental alienation is beginning to be considered a recognised disorder and that it causes psychological problems for children and the alienated parent.

For advice in relation to any issues regarding children in the breakdown of a relationship or marriage, please contact :

Margaret Baker          Email: m.baker@hklaw.uk       Tel: 01202 725427

Debbie Roper            Email: d.roper@hklaw.uk         Tel: 01202 725407

Darren Francis           Email: d.francis@hklaw.uk       Tel: 01202 725428

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