What is Parental Alienation- Are you allowing your unresolved divorce/separation/personal issues to turn you into an alienating parent?

NOTE: There are many variables to consider in separation, however all decisions should be made with the best interests of the child/children front of mind

Working in the field over the years as a Counsellor, Mediator and Family Group Facilitator, it can be tough to call out Parental Alienation behaviours and report on this to the court when required, through court orders. In many circumstances the person doing the alienating may have little consciousness of their behaviour and the phycological harm they are causing the child/children long term. I do my best to encourage parents to place their anger and dislike for one another aside and to remain child-focused. This is not always easy, as most couples are going through the courts already, fighting over the financial settlement, goods and chattels and custody. This environment does not set the stage for a harmonious meeting of any sorts. However in all areas of life there needs to be personal responsibility and if behaviours do not change there will be accountability.

What is parental alienation and how does the Family Court see it?

Parental alienation refers to a situation in which one parent, usually in the context of a divorce or separation, deliberately or unconsciously tries to undermine or damage the relationship between a child and the other parent. This behaviour often involves speaking negatively about the other parent, making false accusations, limiting contact or visitation, and manipulating the child’s emotions to turn them against the targeted parent. The goal of the alienating parent is to make the child feel anger, fear, or hatred towards the other parent.

Parental alienation is a highly contentious and emotionally charged issue, as it can have significant negative effects on the child’s well-being and the parent-child relationship. The psychological and emotional harm caused by parental alienation can be long-lasting and may lead to estrangement between the child and the targeted parent.

As for the Australian Family Courts, their stance on parental alienation may vary depending on individual cases and circumstances. The courts are generally concerned with the best interests of the child and aim to ensure the child’s well-being and safety. In cases where parental alienation is suspected or proven, the courts may take various measures to address the issue. Some possible actions that the courts might take include:

Mediation or counselling: The court may order the parties to attend mediation or counselling to work through the issues and improve communication.

Parenting orders: The court may issue specific parenting orders that outline the responsibilities and rights of each parent to prevent further alienation and protect the child’s relationship with both parents.

Supervised visitation: In extreme cases, the court may order supervised visitation for the alienating parent to ensure that they do not engage in harmful behaviours during their time with the child.

Parenting programs: The court may require the alienating parent to attend parenting programs aimed at promoting healthy co-parenting and minimizing conflict.

Change of custody or residence: In severe cases, if it is determined that one parent is consistently engaging in alienating behaviours and causing significant harm to the child’s relationship with the other parent, the court may consider a change of custody or residence to protect the child’s well-being.

It is important to note that parental alienation is a complex issue, and each case is unique. The courts will carefully consider the evidence and the specific circumstances before making decisions that are in the best interests of the child. If you are dealing with parental alienation or a related issue, it is advisable to seek legal advice and support from professionals experienced in family law matters.

Parental alienation can cause significant harm to a child’s psychological, emotional, and social well-being. The negative effects can be long-lasting and may continue into adulthood if the issue is not addressed. It is “Child Abuse” Are you allowing your unresolved divorce/separation/personal issues to turn you into an alienating parent?  While you wouldn’t do anything to directly harm your children, your behaviour regarding the other parent can be detrimental to your children.

Some of the potential harms of parental alienation on a child include:

Emotional distress: Children caught in the middle of parental alienation may experience intense emotional distress, including feelings of sadness, confusion, guilt, and anxiety. They might feel torn between their parents and struggle to understand the reasons behind the conflict.

Low self-esteem: Being subjected to negative messages about one of their parents can lead the child to internalize those messages, resulting in lowered self-esteem and a negative self-image.

Identity confusion: Parental alienation can create confusion for the child about their own identity and their place within their family.

Difficulty forming healthy relationships: Children who have experienced parental alienation may struggle to form healthy relationships in the future, as they may have difficulty trusting others and fear getting hurt or abandoned.

Increased risk of mental health issues: Alienated children may be at a higher risk of developing mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and even personality disorders, due to the emotional turmoil they experience.

Academic and behavioural problems: The stress caused by parental alienation can affect a child’s academic performance and behaviour at school, leading to a decline in their overall well-being.

Long-term impact: Parental alienation can have lasting effects on the child’s ability to cope with stress and relationships throughout their life, affecting their overall quality of life as adults.

Difficulty in future co-parenting relationships: Alienated children may find it challenging to have healthy co-parenting relationships with their parents in the future, perpetuating the cycle of conflict and alienation.

It is crucial to recognise the signs of parental alienation and address the issue as early as possible to minimise the harm caused to the child. Professional counselling and intervention, along with the cooperation of both parents, can help mitigate the negative effects of parental alienation and support the child’s emotional well-being. Family courts may play a role in identifying and addressing cases of parental alienation to protect the best interests of the child involved.

Ted Talk on Parental Alienation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cu4XXnKPwCM