Parental alienation is a distressing, yet fairly frequent occurrence in high conflict divorce cases and custody battles. For those who may not be familiar with the term, parental alienation refers to the process by which a child is psychologically manipulated or brainwashed into showing unwarranted disrespect and hostility towards one parent or other family members. Children end up seeing the targeted parent as exclusively negative, to the point that the parent is demonized and seen as evil. Severely alienated children treat the rejected parent with extreme aggression, disobedience, defiance and withdrawal.

Parental alienation is notable because the treatment of the rejected parent is unwarranted. It can be differentiated from cases where distance from a parent is necessary for legitimate reasons, such as abuse or neglect. It is viewed by many experts as a largely overlooked form of child abuse and it can have devastating consequences, such as the permanent estrangement of a child from one parent and other family members.

Parental alienation can lead to parental alienation syndrome (“PAS”), a controversial disorder which causes a shift in a child’s mind when he or she is force to choose between their parents. Children with PAS generally do not exhibit any outward signs of maltreatment, but their scars are psychological and emotional and the effects can be long-lasting. In a study of 40 adults who were alienated as children, parental alienation expert and researcher Dr. Amy Baker discovered lifelong battles with low self-esteem, alcoholism and drug abuse, as well as high divorce and suicide rates.

Every child has the right and the need to a loving relationship with both parents, and to be denied that right by one parent, without justification, is a form of child abuse.

If you have questions about parental alienation, high conflict divorce or any other family law matter, please contact Jason P. Howie, online or at 519.973.1500.