Element

‘Parent alienation’ is a concept sometimes referred to in family cases and the phrase is intended to suggest the possibility of one parent negatively influencing the child's relationship with the other parent. There is no specific legislation that addresses parental alienation, and not everyone recognises a common understanding of what is meant by ‘parental alienation’.  Some prefer a broader suggestion of ‘alienating behaviours’, which have the effect of trying to marginalise one of the parents. Whichever phrase is used, understandably, this type of behaviour can have damaging long-term effects on a child's well-being.  

Suggestions of alienating behaviours can be controversial and highly nuanced. Our experienced family law team can provide legal advice and guidance to address the complex issues involved and achieve a proper outcome. 

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Legal interventions for parental alienation 

We can assist with:

  • Assessment of the nature of the difficulties to formulate a rounded plan, after full discussion and consideration of the options. In such a sensitive area of legal work, proper thought needs to be given to the right approach for the individual case. Expert advice from us early can avoid the pitfalls of some approaches. Where a less successful route has already been taken we can look at how the matter moves to a more constructive outcome.
  • Documentation and evidence: We can assist you in gathering evidence of relevant behaviour (whether to support or dispute the existence of alienation), which may include text messages, emails, social media posts, witness statements, and records of missed visits or communications.
  • Help you work with other child focussed non-lawyer professionals: to see if there can be a possible change to underlying behaviours that are giving rise to the issues.
  • Negotiation/Mediation: We can attempt to negotiate or mediate with the other parent or their legal representation to resolve the issue outside of court through mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods. 
  • Court Representation: If negotiations fail, we can build a team around you for representation in court during hearings and proceedings.
  • Enforcement or modification of court Orders: If a court order regarding child arrangements is in place but not being followed due to allegations of parental alienation, we can seek enforcement or variation of the order to prioritise the child's well-being.

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“Georgie Hall is a standout lawyer. She has gone above and beyond for us, she is incredibly smart, very calm and strategic and has a wealth of experience. The first time I spoke to Georgie on the phone after meeting five or six lawyers in person, it was a real eureka moment that had we found someone who was both smart and who actually cared and was prepared to immerse herself in this case.”  

- Legal 500 [UK 2024]

We can provide you with tailored legal advice and support to protect your rights and work toward a resolution that prioritises the welfare and best interests of the child. If you think your child/children is being affected by parental alienation, contact our expert family law team confidentially on 01473 232121, complete our contact form, or send us an email at familylaw@prettys.co.uk.

What is ‘Parental Alienation’? 

‘Parental alienation’ or alienating behaviours tend to occur when one parent may be said to be behaving to systematically undermine the child's relationship with the other parent, often through manipulation, misinformation, or unjustified estrangement. It may be argued that his behaviour, if present, harms the child's emotional well-being and undermines the child’s fundamental right to have a loving, nurturing relationship with both parents.

Parental alienation is a complex and emotionally charged issue that can be challenging to identify. Understanding the potential signs of ‘parent alienation’ is essential to helping families find lasting solutions and protecting the wellbeing of the child/ren. Behaviour that could be argued to be alienating could take the form of:

  • Negative comments and criticisms: One parent consistently makes negative comments about the other parent, belittles them, or criticises their actions or decisions in front of the child.
  • False allegations of abuse: False accusations of abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual) against the other parent, which can cause the child to fear or distrust that parent.
  • Interference with child arrangements: One parent consistently interferes with the other parent's scheduled time with the child or children or makes it difficult for the child or children to spend time with the other parent.
  • Undermining the other parent's authority: One parent undermines the other parent's authority by allowing the child to disobey or disregard rules and boundaries set by the other parent.
  • Denigrating family and friends: One parent may also criticise and denigrate the extended family and friends of the other parent, making the child feel isolated from that side of their support network.
  • Emotional manipulation: The child may express irrational anger or hatred toward a parent without valid reasons,  parroting phrases and negative attitudes used by the other parent.
  • Refusal to communicate or co-parent: One parent may refuse to communicate or cooperate with the other parent regarding important decisions or issues related to the child's upbringing.
  • Creating loyalty conflicts: The child is put in a position where they feel forced to choose sides between their parents, causing loyalty conflicts and emotional distress.
  • Attempts to erase memories: One parent may try to erase or distort the child's positive memories of the other parent or even discourage them from maintaining photographs or mementos.
  • Parentification: The child may be forced into a caregiving role for one parent, taking on responsibilities and emotional support typically beyond their age and developmental level.
  • Fear or anxiety: The child may express fear or anxiety about spending time with a parent, often without concrete reasons or context.

These signs can vary in intensity and may not always be present in cases of ‘parental alienation’. They can also be indicative of other issues, so it's crucial to seek professional guidance and evaluation to ensure the child's best interests are protected.

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Legal 500 [UK 2024]

Our approach

Our family law team will listen, discuss the situation with you in straightforward language, and give you a frank and honest assessment. We will find out what is important to you and discuss the best approach, looking at all the professionals also likely to be involved in making decisions about your child or children. This allows us to determine with you a robust plan to deliver what is needed. 

Contact our expert family law team today on 01473 232121, complete our contact form, or send us an email at familylaw@prettys.co.uk.

Please note we do not offer legal aid but are always happy to talk over your case and fees.

Expert
Georgie Hall
Partner, Head of Private Client Services, Mediator and Collaborative Lawyer
Georgina Rayment
Partner, Head of Family, Mediator
Victoria Mayhew
Senior Associate Solicitor, Accredited Mediator
Sarina Bailey
Associate