What happens if parents are in dispute about the upbringing of a child? If mediation or other forms of dispute resolution fail the courts will become involved and the Children Act, 1989 will apply.

When it comes to deciding where a child should live and how much time he or she should spend with each parent the Act is quite clear. At the top of the so-called ‘welfare checklist’ (used to decide issues around a child’s upbringing) the courts are instructed to establish:

“the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding)”

The degree to which a court will listen to a child will depend on the child’s maturity and his or her level of understanding of the family’s situation. Often the Children and Family Court Advice and Support Service (Cafcass) will prepare a report for the family judge to assess what future living and contact arrangements should be.

But sometimes the child’s wishes appear extremely one-sided in favour of a particular parent. Unjustifiably so. In such cases the courts are alive to the possibility of ‘parental alienation’. That is, where one parent skews or manipulates a child’s feelings in their own favour. In such a case the child might not always be expressing genuine feelings of negativity towards a parent he or she has rejected.

What Can I Do To Prevent Parental Alienation?

What can you do if you think your child has become alienated from you because of the other parent’s behaviour?

In our experience it’s important for a parent who is being alienated from his or her child to take immediate steps to reduce the impact on you and your child. This means:

  • Ensuring contact provisions are maintained – If your ex partner is making contact with your child difficult or preventing it altogether, it may be necessary to seek legal advice to ensure you continue to see your child and minimise alienation as far as possible
  • Not engaging in manipulation – Remember the harm that can be caused to your child by alienation. While it might be tempting to retaliate and counteract the poor behaviour of your ex with similar treatment, this won’t help your child and may lead to Cafcass or the court drawing negative inferences against you
  • Understanding that when your child exhibits alienating behaviour toward you it’s not his or her fault
  • Using the many online resourcesand others to understand more about parental alienation
  • Seeking legal advice if you are concerned about the effect of parental alienation on you or your child

How To Recognise Parental Alienation

There’s no legal definition of parental alienation. Nevertheless the courts, Cafcass and family law professionals have come to recognise a range of behaviours that, when present, are suggestive of parental alienation.

Child behaviour following alienation might include:

  • Expressing an unjustifiably biased negative opinion about one parent
  • Reacting disproportionately to a parent’s behaviour
  • Extending a negative attitude to a rejected parent’s wider family
  • Exhibiting irrational reasons to justify dislike of one parent
  • Erasing positive memories of time spent with the rejected parent
  • Use of stilted or adult-like language when explaining negativity towards rejected parent

And behaviour of an alienating parent might include:

  • Exaggerating the other parent’s shortcomings to the child
  • Coaching the child to express certain feeling to professionals such as Cafcass officers
  • Not allowing the child to praise the other parent
  • Conscious or sub conscious suggestions of rejecting the child if they continue to contact the other parent
  • Fabricating false information about the other parent, including unjustified suggestions of abuse
  • Allowing the child to behave badly toward the other parent without reprimand

How We Can Help

It’s rarely straightforward to establish a pattern of behaviour that amounts to parental alienation. But cases in this area have shown that when proven, alienation can result in an order transferring a child’s main residence away from the alienating parent.

You should bear in mind that when deciding on child arrangements courts start on the basis that a child benefits from regular contact with both parents. Judges now understand the harm done to a child that’s been alienated. Where possible the court will take steps to redress alienation.

Got a question? Ask us now…

Kindly complete the form below to send an enquiry. Your message will be sent to one of our solicitors. Discretion is guaranteed.

Your Information

  • Consider including information such as: the name of your spouse (if relevant), the country you live in, the background to your problem.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Over 2000 FREE
consultations and counting…

Our free consultation can help you more clearly understand the legal issues relating your case and what your options are to move forward.

Request your free consultation

Or send us an enquiry

I had applied for a free consultation and I was contacted in a very short timeframe. Thank you so much for the insightful and thorough consultation, Kevin Danagher. You made me feel at ease and you provided clear expectations with the initial info I had provided... I have now a much better understanding on my query.

Feb 2024   Sonia Accardi

We had a very useful first consultation with Amber Matheson today. Amber took the time to understand our (somewhat complicated) set-up, and offered good, understandable advice on next steps. She followed up with a very thorough email clarifying what we had discussed. Highly recommended.

Feb 2024   Lucie

Lovely friendly experience. All questions were answered so that I understood completely.

Dec 2023   Ali Catlin

Very balanced, fair and pragmatic advice. Thoroughly recommend!!

Nov 2023   James Elliott

Henry graciously provided his time for a consultation. I found him to be highly knowledgeable, empathetic and he provided excellent advice which put my mind at ease. Would highly recommend Henry and his firm.

Oct 2023   Allan Ang

Henry Brookman went above and beyond during the free consultation, and even overran the allocated time. He provided invaluable professional advice in a courteous manner. I recommend his firm without reservation.

Sep 2023   Mario Ignatov

I only had my initial free review with Amelia yet I already feel much more strengthened in my legal and financial position. I am currently reflecting on the steps I want to take to negotiate my desired outcome of the financial settlement but, when I am ready to use the services of a lawyer, Amelia is definitely the top on my list.

Sep 2023   Nahid Toubia

I had a zoom consultation with Lauren Moir and she was incredible. Very patient, insightful and reassuring. She also advised me based on my previous conversations with another firm and also clarified various positions I am in. Highly recommend.

Aug 2023   Gary Hawes

I was very impressed with the friendly, helpful and professional service offered by Brookman Solicitors. The generous advice and knowledge offered during the initial free consultation has enabled us to have a much better understanding of our case and plan a way forward.

Jul 2023   Peter Jackson

I had a first consultation with Kevin, who very diligently and professionally provided an exhaustive overview of the divorce process and the best approach for my specific case.

Jul 2023   Giulia Matteo

Great service and excellent advice at the initial consultation. I would certainly recommend and use in the future.

Jul 2023   Tom James

Spoke to a kind solicitor this morning who took an hour of her time to talk me through some advice relating to a difficult separation.... She was clear and helpful with her advice, leaving me feeling much more confident with the process ahead of me.

Jun 2023   Luke Taylor

Mr Brookman provided very clear advice that left me with no doubt about the options and next steps. Getting specific advice with the requirements in the different jurisdictions was particularly useful so I won’t need to consult another lawyer outside of the UK

May 2023   Julian Anthony

From initial contact I found all staff extremely helpful and professional. My options were made clear, my query was dealt with in a sympathetic way. Would highly recommend Brookman Solicitors.

Mar 2023   seamus mcguinness

The initial consultation I have just completed with Henry Brookman was very informative; he was very open and honest about my situation, the legalities of the matter and the extent of how his firm could help.

Nov 2022   Kimberley Noakes

Google Reviews
Ask A Question

Contact Us

If you have questions, contact us now, we can help you.

Enquire Now

Or call us on +44 (0)20 7430 8470