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June 9, 2023

Parental Alienation.

Parental Alienation didn’t use to be ‘a thing’. It seems to me to be in the last 5 or 6 years that suddenly with cases in the family courts that include allegations of domestic abuse, the term ‘Parental Alienation’ is thrown around with abandonment – usually by the alleged perpetrator. So what is it?

The definition of ‘Parental Alienation’ is the manipulation of a child to reject one parent or the other.

In the eyes of the law, it is felt that children should have and be given the chance to, have a good relationship with both parents. To achieve this, it is is thought that each parent when separated, should have equal time with the child. I think we would all agree that any relationship breakdown, whether abusive or not, is really difficult and many people let their hurt be known to their children in one way or another, sometimes unintentionally. However, despite this, when a parent begins to isolate a child or make a child angry or afraid of, the other parent, this is called alienation.

There are many ways that this can happen but some of the ‘weapons’ of choice would be to badmouth and/or undermine the other parent, make contact with the other parent difficult, for example, not taking the child to contact, arriving late and picking the child up early.

The child could be manipulated into rejecting the other parent. Making the child feel guilty for loving the other parent or creating conflict with the other parent, which makes the child feel they have to choose between their parents.

There are lots of ways a child may be made to feel alienated against the other parent and sometimes the parent that is doing the manipulation, won’t even realise they are doing this. They are just hurt. Yes, we know it happens and it is never alright. But what happens when there is domestic abuse involved in that relationship breakdown?

Though parental alienation and domestic abuse are two separate issues, they can often have a significant overlap. We know that domestic abuse can take many forms including, but not limited to, physical abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological abuse. Having one parent attempt to alienate the other parent can often be an extension of an already existing pattern of domestic abuse in the home.

I have seen this overlap so many times in the last few years with women I have been working with. It appears to have become a new way for perpetrators of domestic abuse, to continue to control and manipulate their ‘victim’ and they use the family courts to do this! What’s worse, is that the family courts allow the perpetrator to use the system to do this.

Whilst there is no compelling evidence or data on it’s prevalence, there is evidence that suggests and demonstrates the ways in which allegations of parental alienation are used in the family courts to deny, hide and divert from allegations of domestic abuse. When a mother raises concerns about whether contact between the child and a perpetrator of domestic abuse, is safe, they are accused of parental alienation. They are accused of turning the child against their father and of making false allegations of domestic abuse and even child abuse. In far too many cases such as this, the family court will make dangerous rulings that allow and force children into unsafe child contact with an abusive parent and further isolates the non abusive parent, making them distrust the justice system which is supposed to be there to protect them and their children.

Quite simply, parental alienation IS another form of domestic abuse. Yet we are back to square one on how we stop this! It comes back, yet again, to lack of awareness, training and understanding of domestic abuse on the part of the family courts and the justice systems in place, in general.

Until this is accepted and acknowledged by the powers that be, we will continue to hear and see of children being placed in impossibly dangerous situations, rendering the non abusive parent completely powerless to prevent further physical, emotional and psychological harm to not only their children but also quite possibly, to them as well.


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  • I first met Sharon back in 2000 when I went into a refuge she worked in after fleeing a violent relationship. I had two babies and virtually just a bag of clothes and a few toys with us. She helped me with appointments with the police, solicitors and..

    A survivor of domestic abuse.
  • I was fortunate enough to meet and work with Sharon when she was the Advocacy Manager at Woman’s Trust and I was working for Westminster City Council. During this time Sharon developed and managed the Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy Service..

    Ainslie O’Connor – Principal Advisor for the Department of the Premier and Cabinet – Adelaide, Australia.
  • Thank you so much for all the support you have given me. You really have been amazing, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have been able to cope with Child Protection without you. The amount of strength you have given me is totally priceless, even with..

    A survivor of domestic abuse.
  • I knew Sharon as a work colleague over ten years ago. At the time, she was supporting vulnerable people, some of them were homeless due to domestic abuse and substance misuse. For me, assisting such people was what anyone in her role would be expect..

    Ted Chanza, Head of Market Operations, Airtel Malawi Ltd, Lilongwe, Malawi, Africa.
  • I have known Sharon for 6 years and have had the pleasure of working alongside her when I chaired the Westminster MARAC. Sharon is a committed, empathetic supporter of women who are or have experienced domestic abuse. She regularly goes the extra m..

    Former Chair of The Westminster MARAC.
  • I was fortunate to have had Sharon as my support worker after 17 years of domestic violence and 4 children that had witnessed and gone through it with me. I was finally strong enough to stand up and protect myself and my children. Without Sharon’s ..

    A survivor of domestic violence.
  • Without the support and constant reassurance of Sharon, I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am forever grateful to her. She is extremely dedicated and knowledgeable, having her on my side when dealing with someone as persistent..

    Anonymous survivor of Domestic Abuse.
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