The harmful effects of parental alienation

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Jennifer Peebles


Phone 01264 325823


When parents separate, they are encouraged to think beyond their own personal wishes and wants. While the division of assets and plans for the future tends to dominate thoughts and discussions during separation and divorce, many parents do a good job of placing their children’s needs front and centre.

This is not just about making sure children are physically and financially secure, but also emotionally protected from the harmful effects of their parents' separation. Family breakups are incredibly hard and it may be impossible to shield children from every element of tension or hostility. However, parents put in huge efforts to minimise their children’s exposure to their true feelings and to the pressures of the divorce process because they know it is the right thing to do.

A particular concern for those of us who help families resolve their issues is ‘parental alienation’. This is where a parent tries to adversely affect their child’s relationship with the other parent. It can range from speaking negatively about them to making up stories that present that parent in a bad light. It is aimed at turning the child against the other parent.

Of course, in some circumstances, there will be a good reason for one parent to raise concerns about the other – where there has been domestic abuse, for example. Family lawyers, like me, help clients work through these difficult situations, supporting them in having the right conversations and putting necessary protections in place. Parental alienation, on the other hand, is unjustified negativity towards the other parent. It is psychological manipulation.

Where one parent does this with the aim of strengthening their own ties with their children,  things can backfire spectacularly. Children can be damaged, both by the alienation and by the distrust it creates. The alienating parent could also find that steps are taken to keep them away from their child. The Courts have a hugely important role in this - identifying where parental alienation has happened and also where it has been alleged to have happened but it has not.

Children usually benefit from having strong relationships with both parents. Ideally, separated parents set aside their issues and help maintain a good bond between each other and their children. As difficult as that will be from time to time, motivation and comfort can perhaps be drawn from it being in their children’s best interests. 

For advice about parental alienation, or any issue to do with children, separation or divorce, contact us on 01264 353411 or at" target="_blank">

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