Parental Alienation


Let SMP Law SiMPlify Your Parental Alienation Matter

Parental alienation has become a popular term used in a legal context. Alienation is a very serious situation, particularly for children. However, it is important to understand that not all situations are alienation. Alienation is a very specific form of manipulation and requires very specific skills to understand alienation and manage it appropriately. It is important to act quickly if you think your child is being alienated from you because over time the damage to the relationship becomes more severe and more difficult to reverse. SMP Law has over 21 years experience in helping assist family members who may be dealing with alienation.

Parental Alienation Syndrome was a term coined by Richard Gardner in 1987. According to Richard Gardner (1999 p.97) “one parent (the alienator, the alienating parent, the PAS-inducing parent) induces a program of denigration against the other parent (the alienated parent, the victim, the denigrated parent)”. But what does that mean exactly?
Many symptoms of parental alienation have been referred to in the past few years but the common symptoms include:

  1. Children have frivolous or unreasonable justification for their negative feelings toward a parent;
  2. Children demonstrate mixed feelings toward a parent, for example, in some settings they appear content and happy with the parent and in other settings they express extreme negative feelings toward the same parent;
  3. The non-alienated parent can do no wrong;
  4. Children that have been coached or influenced by a parent will present as coached and influenced when they talk about the alienated parent;
  5. Alienated Children often are also alienated from the extended family of the alienated parent

[Source: Richard A. Gardner. (1999). “Differentiating between Parental Alienation Syndrome and Bona-fide Abuse-Neglect.” The American Journal of Family Therapy, 27 (2), 97-107.]

Each situation is different for every family. The degree of seriousness and dynamics of the family is crucial to understanding alienation, however all alienation is very serious for children and their development. Alienation can occur for various reasons and sometimes a parent may not even realize they are alienating their children from the other parent as they are caught up in their own emotional distress from the breakdown of the relationship. Some common reasons for causing alienation include:

  1. Fear of losing your child(ren) to the other parent;
  2. Anger at the other parent and the projection of your own feelings onto the child(ren);
  3. Anger and fear over financial issues in the separation;
  4. Unaware of the danger of discussing adult issues in front of children;
  5. Overprotectiveness of a parent;
  6. Abuse of power

Goldberg and McCarty refer to a term called “realistic estrangement“. They describe this term as “adults can be so focused on their own issues that they ignore this perspective; they are not able to examine their own behavior and the impact on the relationship“. This essentially means that a parent may not be aware that it is their actions and their relationship with their child that may be the cause of any negative feelings.

It can be difficult to sort through the differences of these two terms when families are in the middle of dealing with separation and divorce, custody, access, equalization and all the various changes that are occurring.

So is it alienation or realistic estrangement? As stated earlier, many factors need to be considered and SMP Law is there to help SiMPlify any questions you may have.

[Source: Dan Goldberg, Senior Counsel, Office of the Ontario Children’s Lawyer, Toronto & Elizabeth McCarty, Counsel, Office of the Ontario Children’s Lawyer, Toronto. “Representing Children in Parental Alienation Cases”]

IPV refers to intimate partner violence and can be sometimes confused with the definition of alienation. There can be situations where one parent is stating that alienation is occurring, however, when a parent feels they must protect their child(ren) from the other parent due to child maltreatment or intimate partner violence, it is not considered alienation. This situation is highly problematic due to the opportunity to abuse IPV in litigation scenarios.
Unfortunately, when parents are in court fighting for parental and property rights, some people will abuse the situation to try to gain leverage in court. So determining alienation versus IPV can involve some investigation from qualified professionals to help sort out what is required for the best interests of the children.

Additionally, IPV has a history of being ignored in the litigation process and there is a historical bias that IPV is strictly male to female. Survivors of abuse, both male and female, face significant hurdles within the court process involving parenting time.

[Tabibi, J., Jaffe, P., & Baker, L. (2021). Misuse of Parental Alienation in Family Court Proceedings Involving Allegations of Intimate Partner Violence – Part 1: Understanding the Issue. Learning Network Issue 33. London, Ontario: Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children. ISBN # 978-1-988412-46-7]

What Can You Do

Skilled lawyers who understand alienation and have significant experience with alienation can help you navigate your way to ensuring your relationship with your child does not continue to deteriorate. There are multiple courses of action including reunification therapy and legal strategies to help protect your relationship with your child.

In parenting time disputes, Parental Alienation is a term that can be brought up between the parents as they attempt to navigate their way through parenting time issues. Understanding what parental alienation is and how it can impact your children can be confusing and frustrating.

Contact SMP Law at 905-565-9494 for any questions you may have regarding parental alienation. SMP Law is here to help you!

Anonymous[September 2023 | Parental Alienation]
Shawn and SMP Law team worked with me to get an opportunity to restore a relationship with my child who was set against me from the behavior of the other parent. I would recommend contacting SMP Law if your scenario is similar. Source: Lawyerratingz 5 stars
B.C.[July 2023 | Parental Alienation]
Shawn Philbert (SMP) and his team worked so hard to put an end to my case of severe parental alienation. After years of dealing with false allegations, numerous breaches of the court orders, and parental alienation, Shawn was able to secure me joint custody, 50/50 parenting time, and gave me the ability to be a valuable part of raising my daughter. During the process, Shawn was able to recommend and get implemented professionals who could work with my daughter and I to rebuild our relationship and work through the obstacle we faced. During trial, Shawn and Lorrie were incredibly organized and prepared for trial. Shawn and Lorrie made the process seem easy and presented as professional, passionate and dedicated. Thank you Shawn and team. Our family and especially my daughter appreciates your hard work and commitment to me as a father in this system. Source: Google Review 5 stars

Let’s discuss how your parental alienation matter can be SiMPlified.