In this blog Family Law in Partnership associate Nicole Phillips suggests ways in which a pushed out parent can tackle Parental Alienation caused by divorce or separation.
For parents involved in high conflict disputes around children, parental alienation is a problem that features all too often. Parental Alienation is the process, and the result, of psychological manipulation of a child by one parent into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards the other parent.
What, then, can a parent faced with parental alienation do to ameliorate the harm it causes to them, and to their child?
From my experience as a specialist family lawyer providing legal representation to clients in this difficult position, I would make five suggestions:
- Act quickly:
If you notice that your ex-partner is attempting to disrupt the attachment between you and your child, don’t wait for the behaviour to become systematic and engrained. Try to speak to your ex-partner about the behaviour, away from your child. If the behaviour continues, and you feel the time you are getting to spend with your child is being unfairly restricted or negatively influenced by your ex-partner, consider your options with a family lawyer. The longer you wait, the more entrenched the behaviour may become and the more warped your child’s perception of you will be, which in turn could make it harder to convince a court that it is in the child’s best interest to resume or increase contact with you.
- Don’t succumb to Parental Alienation yourself:
It’s natural to act defensively and protectively when faced with Parental Alienation. Resist the temptation to influence the child against the alienating parent, as this will only serve to heighten their sense of culpability and helplessness.
- Remember it’s not your child’s fault:
When your relationship with your child begins to fray as a result of Parental Alienation, it’s easy to feel resentment towards the child, who might start acting up in your care. Remember, the child is struggling to cope with an internalised conflict between their own experience and perception of you, and the information they have been fed about you by the alienating parent.
- Don’t give up:
Don’t give up on what may once have been a close and fulfilling bond you enjoyed with your child. Although your child may appear to be pushing you away, try to counteract the unfounded, negative observations they are hearing, and make the time you spend together as special and enjoyable as possible.
- Surround yourself with a team of professionals who can help:
Surround yourself with the best level of support that you can afford. Parental Alienation is a problem that is difficult to comprehend and navigate. Mental health professionals and family lawyers who have experience of Parental Alienation can provide assistance and support to minimise the harm caused by the behaviour, and can work with you to resume contact or increase the amount of time you get to spend with your child.
At Family Law in Partnership we offer a range of family support services to help you to navigate the difficulties caused by family breakdown including Parental Alienation. Our Parenting After Parting workshops, for example, help parents to place their children at the heart of the decision making process during divorce and separation.
The author of this blog, Nicole Phillips, is an associate at Family Law in Partnership. She combines a warm, sympathetic manner with tactical nous and incisive judgement. Nicole handles all aspects of private family law, assisting and supporting clients who are navigating divorce or separation, to resolve any financial or children issues that may arise. View Nicole’s profile here or contact Nicole on E: firstname.lastname@example.org or T: 020 7420 5000.