What is Parental Alienation?

What is Parental Alienation?

Many people report their separation from a spouse or partner is one of the most painful experiences of their lives. Whether it is the end of a marriage or an adult interdependent relationship, it is a life-altering change that often comes with highly charged emotions and the stress of disentangling two interconnected lives. When there are children involved, a separation is often even more complicated. Decisions must be made about the children’s futures, including where they will live and who will hold decision-making responsibility for them.

Under ideal circumstances, both parents act with integrity and mutual respect even as they navigate the end of their relationship. However, there are situations where a parent turns to bad faith measures in order to gain leverage in the course of a separation. For example, they may use manipulative tactics to tarnish the relationship between the children and their other parent. This is known as parental alienation.

If you believe your current or former spouse is trying to alienate your children from you, our Edmonton family lawyers would be happy to discuss the particulars of your situation and overview your legal rights. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Parental Alienation: Manipulation of the Children

Parental alienation is a tactic that some parents may attempt to use in order to turn the children against the other parent. This is a manipulative approach that may involve speaking negatively about the other parent, preventing the child from seeing the other parent, making the child feel the divorce is their fault, and more. 

Depending on the child’s age, they may have a say in the parenting plan and allocation of decision-making responsibility. When can a child decide which parent to live with in Alberta? A person is considered a child until they reach the age of 18, but typically a child’s wishes may be considered as part of a court’s decision, so long as they display signs of understanding the circumstances. 

If a child has been manipulated to harbour unfounded biases against one of the parents, the preferences they voice in a decision-making process may be unduly influenced. Not only might this have a profoundly negative effect in the short term, with the possibility of the manipulating parent gaining full decision-making responsibility, but the effects of parental alienation can be lifelong.

The relationship between a child and their parent is profoundly important. While there are times when this relationship must be severed, in the interest of physical and/or psychological safety, a severing caused by parental alienation is founded on a deeply damaging lie.

The Consequences of Parental Alienation

Manipulating a child into rejecting one of their parents is profoundly harmful to the child, with consequences for both their short-term and long-term relationships to both themselves and others. 

The emotional scars of being used as a weapon in their parents’ separation may contribute to the development of conduct disorders as well as other forms of mental health concerns such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and more. Low self-esteem and a higher likelihood of substance abuse have likewise been reported in adults who have been the targets of parental alienation as children.

Signs of Parental Alienation

Parental alienation often manifests itself in changes in the child’s behaviour. Pay attention to how your child speaks to you and others, and notice any unwarranted actions or words. Possible signs of parental alienation include:

  • A total refusal to be in contact with you.
  • A change in your child’s willingness to engage with your extended family.
  • A rejection of your affection, including gifts.
  • Using the same language as your ex when criticizing you.
  • Always siding with the other parent, quickly and without much evidence.
  • Your child exhibiting greater than expected amounts of fear, anxiety, or other forms of upset when you interact with them.
  • Uncharacteristic levels of rudeness, criticism, cruel remarks, etc. towards you.
  • An absence of remorse as to damage to your relationship.
  • And more.

Remember that a child is a human in development. It is important for children to understand the consequences of their actions, and the behaviours listed above are almost certainly devastating to the parent who receives them, but in cases of parental alienation the core cause of the problem typically lies with the other parent. 

If you are unable to safely or effectively communicate with your former partner and find a mutually satisfactory solution to your disagreements, you may wish to consider the support of an Edmonton family lawyer.

How an Edmonton Family Lawyer May Be Able to Help

A key part of separation and divorce when you have children is setting down clear provisions for how the children will be raised. An Edmonton family lawyer may be able to illuminate you on what you should know about changes to the Divorce Act, and help guide you through the process of setting up a parenting plan that encompasses parenting time and decision-making responsibility.

An Edmonton family lawyer may be able to help ensure you receive the time you deserve with your child, which may help heal fractures in your relationship. If your former partner refuses to comply with court orders, your family lawyer may help ensure the orders are enforced. 

Contact Our Edmonton Family Lawyers Today for a Consultation

Parental alienation is a serious issue that can have life lasting effects on the relationships within a family. If your former partner is attempting to force distance between you and your children, there may be legal support available to prevent further damage. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our Edmonton family lawyers, and learn how we may be of service to you.

** Please note, this article is intended as a general overview on the subject of family law, and is not intended to be legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with an Alberta family lawyer.

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