The term “parental alienation” refers to a scenario where one parent attempts to exert influence over a child’s relationship with the other parent, often with the intention of isolating the child from the other parent and gaining control over the child’s life. This issue is particularly problematic when it coincides with domestic abuse, as the abuser may use the child as a tool to manipulate and control the other parent.
What are the first signs of parental alienation?
Although the initial indications of parental alienation are subtle, they can quickly progress into more pronounced behaviour. A primary indicator is when a child begins to distance themselves from a parent they were previously close to. The child’s withdrawal may occur abruptly, and they may display animosity, be unresponsive, or appear indifferent towards the parent.
Another common sign is when a child starts to speak negatively about the other parent, often using language and ideas that are not their own. The child may repeat phrases or statements that seem rehearsed or that echo the abusive parent’s words.
Is parental alienation a crime in the UK?
Parental alienation is not a crime in the UK. It is however recognised as a serious issue that can cause significant harm to the child and the non-abusive parent. A petition was submitted by the UK government to change that status and “to introduce a law that recognises Parental Alienation as a criminal offence”. However, the government responded: “We do not believe that it is necessary to introduce a criminal offence against parents who alienate their child against the other parent as the court can take effective action against such behaviour”.
17 potential signs of parental alienation:
- The child expresses unreasonably negative or hostile feelings towards one parent, without being able to provide specific reasons for those feelings.
- The child seems to have an unwavering loyalty to one parent, even if that parent is behaving in a way that is harmful or inappropriate.
- The child exhibits sudden and dramatic changes in behaviour or attitude towards one parent, often without any apparent trigger or explanation.
- The child is reluctant or unwilling to spend time with one parent or may express a desire to avoid that parent altogether.
- The child seems to have been coached or influenced by one parent to think and behave in a certain way.
- The child makes unfounded accusations or false statements about one parent.
- The child appears to have been given negative information or misinformation about one parent.
- The child expresses strong, unwarranted feelings of guilt or shame towards one parent.
- The child may refuse to talk about or acknowledge the other parent in front of one parent.
- The child may display extreme distress when forced to spend time with the other parent, even in situations where there is no risk of harm.
- The child may be encouraged or rewarded for rejecting or belittling the other parent.
- The child may express a desire to live with one parent exclusively and may refuse to spend time with the other parent altogether.
- The child may express a desire to change their name to distance themselves from the other parent.
- The child may express a desire to move to another location to escape the other parent.
- The child may be coached to make false allegations of abuse or neglect against the other parent.
- The child may have a preoccupation with the other parent’s faults or shortcomings and may talk about them frequently.
- The child may show signs of anxiety, depression, or other emotional distress because of the situation they find themselves in.
Is parental alienation a form of abuse in the UK?
The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 represents a significant milestone in legislation, aiming to safeguard all individuals across England. Notably, the Act acknowledges children as independent victims and emphasises the importance of safeguarding them against coercive control, regardless of the form that abuse takes.
As per section 84 of the 2021 Act, the Draft Guidance has been created to establish benchmarks and encourage optimal practices. This guidance is particularly crucial for the Central Family Court and judgments concerning children’s affairs.
Of great significance, the Draft Guidance recognises that parental alienation is a form of abuse that victimises both parents and their children.
If you are facing allegations of parental alienation in a domestic abuse case, seek legal advice, document everything, seek support, attend mediation, seek a court order if necessary, and, importantly, take care of yourself. Remember, you are not alone, and there is help available. If you’re experiencing parental alienation and domestic abuse, National Legal Service can offer legal support and guidance. Contact us to arrange a confidential consultation to discuss your case.