Parental Alienation can be defined as one parent “driving a wedge” between the child / children and the other parent.
In the breakdown of marital and/or defacto relationships the impact upon the children can be immense. The impact is more significant when one parent acts in a way that prevents the other parent from having a relationship with a child and/or the children. As a family lawyer I come across this scenario on a regular basis.
It is the expert’s view (psychologists, social workers etc) that it is in the best interests of the children to have a strong and healthy relationship with each parent. To undermine the relationship between a child and their parent can be damaging for the child / children. The effects of this damage can be far reaching, including mental health problems, problems with future relationships and resentment towards the parent who sought to alienate the child / children from the other parent.
A recent study “The Forgotten Parent: The Targeted Parent Perspective of Parental Alienation – Journal of Family Issues” (May 28 2018) showed that alienated parents considered alienating behaviours to be a form of family violence. They also described poor mental health and concern for their child’s psychological well-being. Such parents also described emotional and financial costs associated with their engagement with systems “such as legal systems and child protection systems.”
In a further article from the Journal of Family Therapy headed “Recommendations for Best Practice in Response to Parental Alienation: Findings from a Systematic Review” (3 October 2016) which reviewed the research on parental alienation, suggested solutions for parental alienation could be:
- Legal and therapeutic management to enhance family functioning;
- Awarding primary parental responsibility to the parent that is being alienated;
- Providing specialised family therapy to break down the parental alienation; and
- The need for a specialised form of systemic family therapy for parental alienation which would aim to improve family functioning and prevent further parental alienation.
Most separations between couples are highly emotional. The experts suggest that parents who are separating need to remain “child focused” and work to an arrangement that is in the best interests of the children, not what best suits either parent.
This is also the overarching principle when parents are before the Family Court. The Family Court’s paramount consideration is “what is in the best interests of the children”. Using a child and/or children as a weapon or a pawn to undermine the other parent is inappropriate and not in the best interest of the child / children.