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What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is when one parent, either directly or indirectly, influences a child to turn against the other parent after the breakdown of a marriage or relationship. Going through a separation or divorce can be difficult for both parties when there are hurt feelings or resentments present. These feelings can also be noticed by children who are affected by the divorce or separation, and may have long-lasting effects on their mental health.

The effects of parental alienation have become common enough that the World Health Organization has considered the situation for inclusion in their updated list of mental health disorders, as reported by News. Some of the long-term mental health effects of parental alienation on children can include depression, anger towards the parent that caused the alienation, anxiety and low self-esteem.

When parents are negotiating the terms of their separation and how they will co-parent their children, it’s important to be aware of the effect the process may have on the children. Courts generally tend to favour parenting plans that allow a child to develop a meaningful relationship with both parents as long as it’s in the child’s best interests.

However, it’s becoming more common that parents allow their hurt and resentful feelings to influence the behaviour of a child. Essentially parental alienation is when one parent “badmouths” or otherwise vilifies the other parent in front of their child. This in turn can then cause the child to not want to spend any time with the vilified parent, or to exhibit feelings of anger and resentment towards the vilified parent themselves.

If you believe that your child is being influenced by a former partner during separation or parenting negotiations, it’s best advised to consult with an experienced family lawyer. He or she will be able to assist you with identifying if parental alienation is present in your situation, and what legal options you have to rectify the situation.

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