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What Is Parental Alienation and How to Deal With It

Parental alienation is a form of psychological manipulation that sees one parent fostering a child’s rejection or negative feelings towards the other parent, potentially causing long-term emotional damage.

In Australia, the laws and courts prioritize the child’s welfare above all, ensuring that they can maintain meaningful relationships with both parents whenever safe and possible.

This article aims to elucidate the concept of parental alienation, discuss its implications within the Australian court system, and suggest strategies for addressing this challenging issue.

What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?

Psychiatrist Richard A. Gardner coined Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) in the 1980s. It describes a set of behaviours exhibited by a child who—under the influence of an alienating parent—becomes estranged from the other parent.

PAS can manifest in various ways, including unfounded hatred, fear, or disrespect towards the alienated parent.

It’s important to note that while PAS isn’t formally recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the distress it causes children and families is very real.

Also read: How Withholding a Child from Other Parent Can Backfire

How Do Courts Address Parental Alienation in Australia?

When instances of parental alienation are brought before the Australian courts, they are thoroughly examined and taken very seriously.

Proving parental alienation can be a challenging process, often requiring substantial evidence. The paramount consideration in all proceedings relating to children, as per the Family Law Act 1975, is the child’s best interests. This principle guides the court’s approach to parental alienation cases.

Judicial View

Australian judges are trained to protect a child’s best interests. They are attuned to potential parental alienation, understanding the harm it can inflict on the child’s well-being.

In any case, where one parent deliberately sabotages the child’s relationship with the other parent, judges will assess this behaviour critically.

They are committed to ensuring children can maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents, provided this aligns with their best interests and safety.

Challenge in Court

Challenging parental alienation in court can be complex and requires a clear strategy, solid evidence, and legal expertise. Here’s how you can counteract parental alienation in court:

  1. Retain a Lawyer Experienced in Parental Alienation Cases: Parental alienation cases can be complex and require a nuanced understanding of the legalities involved. It’s crucial to hire a child custody lawyer experienced in these cases who can effectively guide you through the legal process.
  2. Document Evidence: Keep a record of every incident of parental alienation. This could include dates, times, places, and detailed descriptions of the events. You should also save all relevant emails, texts, voicemails, and letters.
  3. Collect Witness Testimonies: Testimonies from neutral third parties, such as teachers, coaches, therapists, or family friends, who have witnessed the alienating behaviour can also be invaluable. They can provide an unbiased perspective on the parent-child relationship and instances of alienation.
  4. Engage a Child Psychologist: A child psychologist can evaluate the child’s well-being and the parent-child relationship, providing valuable insights into the potential impact of parental alienation on the child. The psychologist’s testimony can be a crucial piece of evidence in court.
  5. Maintain Your Relationship with the Child: Maintaining a positive relationship with your child is essential, even if the other parent is trying to alienate you. Show your child consistent love and support. Remain patient and understanding, avoiding negative talk about the other parent in front of the child.
  6. Seek Family Therapy: Professional family therapy can help mitigate the impacts of parental alienation and help rebuild damaged relationships. A therapist can also testify in court about the progress and dynamics they observe.

Remember, each case of parental alienation is unique, and the court’s decisions will always aim to uphold the child’s best interests. Therefore, it is crucial to approach your case strategically and professionally, prioritizing the child’s well-being above all.

Also read: Can a Father Take a Child Away from the Mother in Australia?

What if Parental Alienation is Against the Mother?

Parental alienation against the mother can be incredibly challenging. Society often assumes that mothers are the favoured parent, but this isn’t always the case.

Mothers can also become targets of parental alienation, devastatingly impacting their relationship with their children.

Also read: Uncovering the Truth Behind a Child Impact Report

Can Parental Alienation Be Directed Against the Father?

Yes, parental alienation can be directed against the father. Many assume this to be the more common scenario.

This can occur due to the aftermath of a contentious divorce or separation, where one parent, possibly the mother, could be manipulating the child against the father.

Can a Mother Manipulate a Child Against the Father?

Yes, a mother can manipulate a child against the father, often by painting a negative, false, or exaggerated picture of the father.

This behaviour can cause significant emotional distress for the child and damage the father-child relationship.

How Can Legislation Address Parental Alienation?

The Family Law Act 1975 establishes children’s rights and parents’ responsibilities in Australia. The law prioritises the child’s best interests, which includes having a meaningful relationship with both parents.

Consequently, parental alienation can be viewed as harmful to the child. Family Courts consider evidence of parental alienation when making parenting orders, and if established, it can influence the Court’s decision significantly.

How Can Justice Family Lawyers Assist You in a Parental Alienation Case?

Navigating a parental alienation situation can be an incredibly stressful and emotionally challenging experience. Having a competent and compassionate legal team at your side can make a difference.

Our dedicated lawyers are ready to provide the necessary guidance and support. If you’re grappling with parental alienation, are you prepared to take the first step towards safeguarding your child’s well-being and parental rights? Contact Justice Family Lawyers today.

15 thoughts on “What Is Parental Alienation and How to Deal With It”

  1. I live near Coffs Harbour
    My son has not seen his children for close to 18 months. He tried local solicitors, however his ex partner’s solicitor kept using stalling tactics and due to huge costs my son gave up.
    His ex partner was successful in getting an avo against my son, the children were not included on the avo.
    His ex partner is British and recently she vacated the home she was living in and we have no idea where they are now living.
    She has refused the children contact with me as well. Reading your article on alienation I feel this is exactly what she has done. She also fits your description of having episodes of paranoia- she has called the police and reported me for occasionally walking past her home ( she chose to move into a house on the block where I have lived for over 23 years), she has a history of poor relationships with her own family.
    My son is obviously depressed, anxious and is abusing substances.
    I’m wondering if you would represent someone living on the Coffs Coast and what your charges are.
    Kind regards
    Caryn Maher

    1. Hi Caryn, yes we act for clients across Australia and are able to act for someone in Coffs Harbour. I am sorry to hear about what is happening to your family. We will get in contact directly and see if we can assist.

  2. hello, I am trying to find more details on the 4 cases from above. could you please let me know where I can get the full case summaries?

  3. Hi my ex partner was pregnant and when we seperated. My ex partner has used every damaging way possible to stop me from having a part in my child’s life. I am feeling mentally and emotionally drained and tortured by this approach from my ex. How do I have the resources to fight for access to my son with limited funds as I lost my job due to unfortunate circumstances.

    1. Hi Rowan,
      Brother – I just wanted to let you know you’re not alone. I too am in the same situation as you. Keep on fighting the good fight and things will start going your way a little more, I can promise you. Do not fight fire with fire and always take the moral high ground. Assuming you have done nothing to deserve this treatment, Your ex (like mine) is probably battling some form of mental health issue.

  4. Hi – my daughter lives in SA. She has not seen her (now) 17 year old daughter for more than 2 years. She has exhausted every avenue available including, but not limited to, community services, women’s legal services etc. Unfortunately she can’t afford a lawyer (& I’m not in the position to help), she has been told she is no longer eligible for legal aid. Although she has court orders naming her as the primary carer, her ex refused to return their daughter after a scheduled visit. Police cannot/will not get involved. We have seen her daughter on 2 occasions whilst out, and upon my daughter trying to approach her to speak to her, she appeared panicked and literally RAN away from her! We believe strongly that she has been deliberately and vexatious alienated. Can you please advise/make suggestions? We are desperate!!

    1. I’m sorry to hear about the difficult situation your daughter and your family are experiencing. When considering custody and visitation matters involving older children, such as your 17-year-old granddaughter, the courts typically place significant emphasis on the child’s own preferences and feelings. Given your granddaughter’s age, the court might be limited in its ability to enforce a mandatory visitation schedule, especially if she expresses a strong preference regarding contact with her mother. It might instead be beneficial for your daughter to invite her child to engage in counseling or family therapy.

    2. Hi Sandy. So sorry to read your account. My daughter is in very similar situation with her 15year old daughter. Her ex has used Co ercive means and lies and manipulation to keep her daughter our granddaughter from us. We are going through family law but we are told because of her age our granddaughter can make her own choices. We have so much proof of emails and texts of the lies etc but it seems we may not win through. It makes no sence as my daughter and us her grandparents have had a close loving relationship. Suddenly in her father’s care it changed overnight.

  5. I have not seen or heard from my now 18 year old daughter for 4 years and my 16 year old daughter for nearly 3 years. They have blocked me on every form of communication. They have recently moved houses and I no longer know where they live. I still have a very good relationship with their older sisters (aged 21 and 24) and see and talk to them regularly.
    Some people may say “well at that age they can make that decision for themselves” but at the time that they started distancing themselves from me they were 13 and 14. At the time I sort legal advise and was told that I would be wasting my time and money as because of their age, me as a Father doesn’t have any right to be involved in my children’s lives and the only ones with any rights were the children and they could decide if they wanted me in their lives or not. For the past 4 years I have felt completely helpless and have not known what to do. everything I have tried has been met with dead ends.
    Further to this my ex recently told our eldest (24) that she no longer wants to talk to her and the younger girls also followed suit. They have disowned her also
    My ex wife has been diagnosed with Borderline personality disorder and bipolar for over 20 years now. I have no doubt that she alienated them against me but I am also convinced that she was aware or was advised that when they became teenagers that she could turn them against me and that there would be nothing I could do about it.
    I am very concerned at the impacts this will have on their emotional well being into the future.
    Probably nothing you can do to help but I just thought Id share my situation so that others might see how the system can be manipulated by ones selfishness.
    Obviously my story is a lot more involved than what I have written here but I hope this summarizes the situation enough.

    1. Hi Andrew, I’m sorry to learn about the difficulties you’re facing. The situation you described, where your older children have distanced themselves, possibly due to parental alienation, is challenging, especially when considering the limited solutions available through legal avenues. As you have mentioned, the legal system tends to give more weight to the preferences of older children in family law and custody matters. One potential path to consider is professional mediation or family therapy. This approach can be useful in offering a neutral setting to address underlying issues and explore opportunities for repairing the relationships.

  6. Pingback: Case Law On Parental Alienation | Unlocking The Mysteries

  7. Hi my name is Amanda and I’m not too sure what to do. Actually I have had my three special needs children with me since birth and exiting a severely domestic violent relationship/marriage which has believe turned into a huge grudge which has developed into something I can only call Sinister and cannot believe that someone would be so capable of doing such a thing to turn me as their soul parent who has been them through rain hail and shine set up. The NDIS plans. Made sure that they had the best starting life and in an instant, it was taken away and from what I can see in hindsight the children’s orders that we had in place were not followed. I tried my And from what I can see in hindsight the children’s orders that we had in place were not followed. I tried my best to coparent and I do have evidence especially when he became verbally and physically violent in the last three years was extreme but there was a lot since we have been separated and then we were divorced officially two years ago so all up it was around about eight years And short with my very confused frame of mind I am a carer. I did work up until two years ago with a great job and a whole heap of events that have happened with a housefire my older son. I can’t. I don’t even know what to say sorry I’m talking through Siri. I do have cognitive issues myself , but I’m sitting here in my bedroom about to see my one child who is low functioning and heavily dependent on me. He was like my wing man. We are very close but DHS got involved and it’s really hard to say this. I feel they didn’t listen to me and a whole heap of accusations pointed at me but everything was made hard or extra difficult in raising the children with their needs because of their dad he just feels good to say things like that out loud because to have it in my head it’s quite haunting

    1. Hi Amanda, I’m sorry to hear about your situation. If you believe the court orders for your children haven’t been followed and the current situation is not in the best interests of the children, it’s important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. A family lawyer who is experienced in child protection matters can help you understand your rights and guide you through the process of applying for a contravention application to enforce the orders or modifying the orders.

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