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What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is the process, and the result, of the psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent and/or other family members.[1][2] It is a distinctive and widespread form of psychological abuse and family violence --towards both the child and the rejected family members--that occurs almost exclusively in association with family separation or divorce, particularly where legal action is involved. Most commonly, the primary cause is a parent wishing to exclude another parent from the life of their child, but other family members or friends, as well as professionals involved with the family (including psychologists, lawyers and judges), may contribute significantly to the process.[1][4] It often leads to the long-term, or even permanent, estrangement of a child from one parent and other family members[5] and, as a particularly adverse childhood experience, results in significantly increased risks of both mental and physical illness for children. (notes from Proving the cause of parental alienation is often extremely difficult. There are times when the children align with  one particular parent because of actual or perceived unfairness by the other party.  Many times the parent who may claim that they are being alienated are actually the root cause due to their own actions.  Other times, it may be unintentional alienation where the party simply asks questions that cause concern. For example, often a child returns from a visit and the mother asks, "How did it go at your Father's?" This is a relatively innocuous question. A child may respond, "Dad didn't feed us." or "Dad left us with grandma all weekend."  If the Mother becomes agitated, sympathetic or overly concerned, it can lead a child to favor for Mother and/or believe that Father has misbehaved.  This is the beginning of alienation, even if unintentional by the Mother. I have worked with a number of psychological professionals who remind parents that this is the child's perspective and often very different from actuality.  Unfortunately, during or after a divorce the amount of distrust of the other spouse is so severe that parents may believe outrageous stories by children instead of the rational reality that the spouse could provide if questioned.  Additionally, many parents are unwilling to have those discussions because of tension between the parties. If you have questions, concerns or don't know where to turn, contact an experienced domestic law/family law attorney. For consultation, call Michael Bouldin at 859-581-6453 or email [email protected].  Call 581-MIKE to schedule an appointment.

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