What is parental alienation?

What is parental alienation?

By Kayla Curtis

· Read time: 7 minutes

Parental alienation is a form of emotional abuse where one parent damages the relationship between the child and the other parent.

How is “parental alienation” defined?

Parental alienation is a term used to describe a situation where one parent (usually the custodial parent) deliberately or unintentionally alienates the child from the other parent. The alienation can take various forms, including negative comments about the other parent in the child’s presence, interference with visitation arrangements, and manipulation of the child’s emotions towards the other parent. 

Parental alienation is not defined in Australian family law legislation. However, it is recognised as a form of family violence under the Family Law Act 1975. 

Section 4AB of the Act defines family violence broadly to include behaviour that is violent, threatening, coercive, or controlling, or causes a child to be exposed to any of these behaviours. This definition includes behaviour that causes a child to be alienated from a parent or that interferes with a parent-child relationship. 

It is important to note that allegations of parental alienation must be supported by evidence and should not be used as a tactic to gain an advantage in a parenting dispute.

Examples of Parental Alienation

Parental alienation can look like nasty comments from one parent to another, refusal of access or involving children in adult situations. 

Examples

  1. Denigrating the other parent in front of the child
  2. Interfering with the other parents “parenting time”
  3. Constant messages or phone calls to the child during th either parents time,
  4. Preventing the child from spending time with the parent they are alienating
  5. Encouraging the child to keep secrets from the other parent 
  6. Manipulating and changing memories to alter the child’s perception of the other parent

What are the legal implications of parental alienation?

Parental alienation can have serious legal implications in the context of family law. If a parent is found to be engaging in parental alienation, it can impact their ability to make decisions regarding their child’s care and custody. 

The court may alter parenting arrangements, order counselling or other interventions to address the alienation, or even restrict or remove the offending parent’s custody or visitation rights. In severe cases, the court may also consider the behaviour to be a form of family violence and impose legal sanctions or criminal charges. 

It is important to note that allegations of parental alienation must be supported by evidence and should not be used as a tactic to gain an advantage in a parenting dispute. 

The court will always prioritise the best interests of the child and take all factors into consideration when making decisions regarding custody and parenting arrangements.

How the Courts Handle Parental Alienation

The Family Law Act 1975 s 60CC sets out what the court must consider when dealing with children in proceedings. 

The primary considerations are:

  1. the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of the child’s parents; and
  2. the need to protect the child from physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to abuse, neglect or family violence.

The paramount consideration for the Court to consider is what is in the best interest of the child.

If a party is able to prove parental alienation, the Court will consider the safety and wellbeing of the child and may make a no contact order for the alienating parent. This means that the parent who was found to be doing the alienating will have no contact with the child, so that the alienated parent may have time to mend the relationship with the child.

The court may consider evidence of parental alienation when making orders for parenting / custody arrangements and may order counselling or other interventions to address the issue.

What can you do if a child does not want to spend time with a parent?

If a child does not want to spend time with a parent, it can be a difficult and emotional situation for everyone involved. It is important to approach the situation with sensitivity and understanding, while also ensuring that the child’s best interests are being met. 

The first step is to try to understand why the child is resistant to spending time with the parent. This could be due to a variety of reasons, such as the child feeling uncomfortable or unsafe around the parent, the child being influenced by the other parent or family members, or the child having their own personal issues. 

If there are concerns about the child’s safety, then it may be necessary to seek legal advice or involve child protection services. In other cases, mediation or counselling may be appropriate to help address any underlying issues and facilitate a healthy relationship between the child and parent.

It is important to prioritise the child’s wellbeing and to always act in their best interests.

FAQs

What can be done with parental alienation by an ex partner?

If you are experiencing parental alienation by your ex-partner, it is important to seek legal advice and take appropriate action. You may wish to consider mediation or counselling to address the issue and improve communication between you and your ex-partner. If these methods are not successful, you may need to apply to the court for a parenting order or variation of an existing order. 

The court takes parental alienation very seriously and may order counselling or other interventions to address the issue. 

If you are concerned for your child’s safety, then it may be necessary to involve child protection services.

How can parental alienation be prevented or managed?

Preventing parental alienation requires open communication and cooperation between both parents. It is important to respect each other’s role in the child’s life and avoid speaking negatively about the other parent in the child’s presence. 

Parents should also ensure that the child has regular contact with both parents and is not used as a messenger or pawn in any disputes. If parental alienation has already occurred, then counselling or other interventions may be necessary to manage the issue and facilitate a healthy relationship between the child and parent.

How can parental alienation be proved?

Proving parental alienation can be difficult, as it often involves subtle and indirect behaviour that can be difficult to document. However, there are a few signs that may indicate parental alienation, such as the child expressing negative or hostile feelings towards the other parent, the child being reluctant to spend time with the other parent, or the other parent interfering with visitation arrangements. 

It is important to gather evidence of the behaviour, such as written or recorded statements from the child, witnesses, or professionals involved in the child’s care, in order to present a compelling case to the court.

Is parental alienation considered a form of child abuse?

Parental alienation is not specifically defined as child abuse under Australian law, but it is recognised as a form of family violence. The Family Law Act 1975 defines family violence broadly to include behaviour that is violent, threatening, coercive, or controlling, or causes a child to be exposed to any of these behaviours. 

This definition includes behaviour that causes a child to be alienated from a parent or that interferes with a parent-child relationship. The court takes parental alienation very seriously and may order counselling or other interventions to address the issue.

Conclusion

If you would like advice in relation to parental alienation, or any aspect of Australian family law, contact us today for a free 20 minute consultation to discuss your options. You can book in here.

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