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Parental Alienation – What is it?

Published on 25 March 2022 | Modified on 14 December 2022

Written by Stacey Bennett
Custody and Contact child law

Parental alienation is not a common term used in everyday conversation, but its effects are felt every day to an increasing number of people. Cafcass has defined parental alienation as “the unjustified resistance or hostility from a child towards one parent as a result of psychological manipulation by the other parent”.

Parental alienation is a form of psychological abuse against both the child and the aggrieved parent.

How to spot it

Often the parent negatively influencing the child will be intentionally seeking to alienate the child. However, through the breakdown of a relationship, parents may not be aware that they are unintentionally negatively impacting their children and their relationship with the other parent.

Behaviours to look out for include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Negative comments about the other parent or even scowling when their name is mentioned;
  • Encouraging the children to misbehave in the care of the other parent;
  • Coaching the children on what to say and how to act in the presence of the other parent;
  • Questioning the children about their time with the other parent once they have been returned to the other parents’ care;
  • Convincing the children that the other parent doesn’t love them as they have left the family, e.g. during divorce or separation;
  • False allegations of mistreatment, neglect and sexual abuse;
  • Children repeating harmful or negative comments they have heard or been told about the alienated parent;
  • Unjustifiably preventing contact from occurring;
  • Frustrating contact by making the child unavailable for activities and other arrangements; and
  • Discussing adult matters with children.


What to do if you believe parental alienation is happening

  • Keep a journal of incidents which indicate to you that something is not right.
  • Speak to the other parent about the incidents if they are reoccurring and note down the responses in the journal.
  • Communicate via writing where possible as this provides a written record of the concerns you have discussed with the other parent and any attempts at contact which have been frustrated.
  • Act sooner rather than later to prevent any further harm coming to the children or to your relationship with them.
  • Contact our team of specialist lawyers, as depending on the facts, an urgent application to court may be needed to prevent further harm coming to the children.


If you feel that you are being alienated from your children or have any other family law enquiries, Poole Alcock are able to help and support you through our team of expert family solicitors. Complete this contact form for a call back from our team or call us on 0800 4700332.


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