Parental Alienation: What Is It?


Often in high conflict divorces and custody battles, one parent will accuse the other of alienating the child from the other parent. More specifically, the parent believes he or she is a victim of “Parental Alienation”. But, what really is “Parental Alienation” and how do you recognize if you or another parent have exhibited some of the characteristics associated with the alienating process?


Common features of Parental Alienation as described by the late Dr. Richard Gardner who recognized and developed the criteria associated are as follows:


Alienating parents makes explicit and/or implicit disparaging remarks about the other parent. Example of Explicit: “Mom left us because she doesn’t care about us anymore.” Example of Implicit: “I can’t afford to send you to ballet class anymore because Mom doesn’t know that you enjoy it.”


Alienating parent discusses with the children the circumstances under which the marriage broke down and blames the targeted parent for the failure of the marriage.


Alienating parent involves and/or discusses with the children the divorce proceedings, ongoing financial problems, and conflict which result after the breakup of the marriage.


Alienated children learn that in order to please the alienating parent, they must dislike or pretend to dislike the targeted parent.


The “victim” of Parental Alienation is not the alienating or the targeted parent, but the child. It is the child who is not only deprived of a relationship with one of his or her parents, but is the innocent caught in the middle.


It is also important to note that while some courts recognize Parental Alienation as part of a child custody and/or visitation determination in the United States, it is not widely accepted by the scholarly community. Thus, evidence of Parenal Alienation is often inadmissible in court.

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