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Parental Alienation

Parental alienation can occur in the context of divorce when parents are engaged in high conflict over custody of the children.

Parental alienation means that one parent is discouraging or preventing the children from having a relationship with the other parent without a justifiable reason.

The parent who is perpetuating the alienation is referred to as the alienating parent. The parent who is a victim of the alienating behaviour is the alienated parent.

Parental alienation consists of any or a combination of the following:

1. unwarranted or inappropriate criticism of the other parent in front of the children;

2. blaming the other parent for the divorce and legal proceedings and/or financial difficulties in front of the children;

3. preventing the children from having parenting time with the other parent; and

4. knowingly making false allegations that the other parent has physically or sexually abused the children.

Often when the alienating parent fails in his or her attempts to alienate the children from the other parent, the alienating parent will escalate his or her attempts to destroy the relationship between the children and the other parent.

It is extremely important for a parent to seek legal advice as soon as possible if he or she suspects that the other parent is alienating the children. If alienation is occurring, a lawyer can assist the alienated parent to file an Application to the Court for an Order for the alienated parent to have increased parenting time with the children before the relationship is permanently destroyed. If the alienation is advanced, a lawyer can file an Application with the Court for an Order for reunification counselling for the children and the alienated parent with the assistance of a qualified psychologist. The psychologist must have specialized training in the area of parental alienation in the context of divorce so that the psychologist can recognize when the children have been manipulated by the alienating parent.

Once the alienation becomes entrenched and the children are refusing to see the alienated parent, the Courts may be forced to leave the children with the alienating parent because it is too late to repair the relationship.

Sometimes children do not want a relationship with a parent for legitimate reasons. This situation is referred to as realistic estrangement.

In summary, if a parent suspects that he or she has been alienated from the children by the other parent, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible before the relationship with the children is permanently destroyed. The lawyer's objective is to ensure that sufficient parenting time for the alienated parent is established prior to the permanent destruction of the relationship with the child.

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