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Hostility against Grandparents following Parental Separation and Divorce

Grandparents do not go unscathed when the marriage of a couple fails and results in the implacable hostility of at least one of the partners against the other. Once a partner has been alienated or rejected and prevented from having good contact with the children of the relationship, the extended family, including grandparents are also frequently prevented from further contact.

Grandparents at present do not have any legal rights to be involved with their grandchildren’s lives. When there is implacable hostility expressed by the custodial parent this can cause great pain to the innocent grandparents, especially when they have had a warm and caring relationship with the children in the past.

The children themselves are in a conflict situation and unable to understand why their beloved and loving grandparents have been taken from them. Frequently they hear negative and malicious and mostly untrue comments from the custodial parent with who they reside about the now absent parents and his/her immediate family. This includes predominantly grandparents, but could also include uncles, aunts, cousins etc.

Case illustration

As an expert witness in the area of family problems following an acrimonious divorce or separation, I receive numerous communications not only from alienated parents but also from grandparents. The letter which follows is from a grandmother. It illustrates a feeling of helplessness, sadness, and other negative emotions of the alienated grandparent.

Grandparent alienation

“Dear Dr. Lowenstein,
We are alienated from our three granddaughters due to Parental Alienation. I do not understand why no one seems to be writing about our plight and the emotional abuse we too suffer at the hands of the alienator. Our grandchildren had a wonderful relationship with us and our son until a divorce (which is still continuing today – 12 years later) which can only be described as “pure hell” for our son and our entire family. He was cut off completely from his daughter three years ago due to what the psychologist (two of them now) say are unfounded claims of sexual abuse. Because of the accusations our daughter in law has alienated us from her two daughters. The story is too long and too personal to tell you in any detail but after reading numerous articles written by you I feel like you may have been secretly living in one of our wardrobes.
I have read all of your books and every article of yours and any other expert in the field of parental alienation I can find (not that it will help our grandchildren) because the courts here in the U.S. fail to see “Parental Alienation” as a serious form of child abuse. The feminist groups say it is just an excuse for fathers to sexually and physically abuse their children. This is pure hogwash!!
There is nothing more terrorizing than to watch the slow insidious brainwashing of my grandchildren against my son and our entire family. It is the same as watching someone you love slowly be roasted over an open fire. Because of the opinion of the courts the only thing you can do is to stand by and helplessly watch their total engulfment and death. It is an agony that never leaves you! Please, if at all possible, write some articles or books on the effects of Parental Alienation on us Grandparents. No one is telling our story or taking us seriously.

Thanks for listening.”


This is one of many emails, letters and telephone calls the author receives regularly. These grandparents and many others have urged me to write something about the pain caused by the implacable hostility leading not only to the alienation of a good parent but grandparents and other members of the extended family. What follows is dedicated to this grandmother and all the other grandparents wherever and whoever they are.

The value of grandparents

Grandparents, most especially, and other members of the extended family are often essential substitute parental figures when something untoward occurs. This included the illness or untimely loss of actual parents due to accidents and death.

Sometimes the extended family is also supportive in case parents are found to be unfit to parent for whatever reasons. Before parents divorce or separate, grandparents are often well known to the children. There is frequently a close and loving relationship between grandparents and their grand children. This is of significant value to the children themselves. It also makes the children a part of the supportive network of an extended family.

While grandparents on the whole are likely to support their son or daughter when there is a rift with a daughter or son-in-law, they can also be a force of neutrality and understanding. They may therefore act as a balanced influence on the children or family. They will often do what they can to encourage the parents to find a way, or show conduct which will be in the best interest of the children, who are caught up in the turmoil of the parental conflict.

Such conflicts inevitably have repercussions on children via contact disputes and when one parent is alienated and hence sidelined from having good contact with children. These conflicts between the parents do much harm to the children who have often had a good relationship with both parents.

The children are often uncertain where the blame lies and even blame themselves unjustly, and often the alienated parent. This is because the remaining custodial parent will speak negatively about the absent parent due to the implacable hostility they have towards the now absent parent.

The children feel they need to choose between which parent they should give their loyalty. Since they are living with the custodial parent, they tend to choose to give their support to that parent. This is partly out of fear at having lost one caring parent; they may also lose the custodial parent.

The children in siding with the custodial parent (usually the mother) then are prepared to alienate the now absent parent (usually the father). In recent times the current psychologist, an expert witness to the courts, has noted a shift in the custodial parent being the father rather than the mother. He then, not unlike the maternal figure, when she has custody, seeks to alienate the children against the mother.

There therefore follows a similar scenario where the child favours and is loyal to the father, who seeks to alienate the mother from having good contact with the children. Grandparents in both situations can do much to encourage both parents to refrain from, as much as possible, showing animosity towards one another, and hence upsetting the children. Grandparents should also refrain from taking sides.

Children should not be placed in the position of having to make decisions such as which parent they wish to be with and which one they wish to reject! They should not need to, or have to choose between often two loving parents. Grandparents frequently can help in this respect.

It must be accepted as fact, that in some cases the alienated parent has indeed had faults that affected the relationship both with the other parent and the child. These negative features are often remembered by the child while the good things are forgotten. This is due to the fact that negative excuses or reasons why the parents cannot be together, or cannot have access to their children is all part of the litigation that takes place between the warring factions. This complicates the picture as to why the child does not want good contact with the absent parent and that parent’s extended family and sides are chosen. This often negates the position of the extended family of the alienated parent.

Finally, it must be said that the value of grandparents and the extended family should not be underestimated. It has been shown that extended family networks can do much to increase the children’s feelings of belonging leading to greater security for the child. This is especially the case when parents have been in an acrimonious divorce or separation.

Changing the law re contact of grandparents with grandchildren

One may well need to consider that it is time for the law to be changed in this regard. Currently, parents when separated are provided by the courts with contact with their children following divorce or separation of the parents. The implacable hostility however, of one parent, usually the custodial parent, should not sideline a worthy non abusive parent or indeed the grandparents. This ruling should include the grandparents of children having a right of good contact with their grandchildren. They are frequently innocent parties to any dispute between the actual parents.

Children frequently have a close attachment to the extended family, and especially the grandparents. These are likely to be sidelined by an vindictive unjust alienator. Sometimes, however, such rejection is due totally or partly to the behaviour of the alienated parent. The need to be cognisant of this and act accordingly when making decisions can lead to encouraging good contact between grandparents and their grandchildren. Sometimes children have in the past has an especially good or bad relationship with the grandparents. If the relationship has been good then contact should certainly continue. If it has been poor then such contact will be refused by the children themselves regardless of the wishes of the grandparents of the non custodial parent.

Much damage to children, and suffering for grandparents occurs, when unjustified alienation of a parent lead also to the unjustified alienation of doting, caring and loving grandparents who have been close to their grandchildren in the past.

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Do Children Have Rights Against the Psychological Effects of Parental Alienation?

There are a number of short and long term problems suffered by children due to the effects of parental alienation syndrome (PAS). The parental alienation syndrome has not been generally recognised in the United Kingdom but there have been a number of court cases, many of which have been attended by the current author to emphasise the PAS condition. There are few psychologists in the United Kingdom that have a great deal of knowledge concerning parental alienation or the syndrome associated with it. It should be recognised that the reaction to PAS in children is not limited to British children. It occurs world-wide in a similar manner.

There still is a great tendency among Judges and Courts in the United Kingdom to virtually always give the benefit of the doubt to one of the parents, usually the mother, when there are disputes between former partners in relation to their children. It appears to go unrecognised that the non-custodial parent frequently suffers from the fact that the custodial parent has turned the child/children against him/her in the process of an unhappy split in the relationship between the partners (Stamps et al, 1997; Stamps, 2002)

The current author has been virtually the only voice in the United Kingdom concerned with the process of repercussions or parental alienation as a syndrome. It is hoped as a result of further court actions that this important syndrome will be recognised and dealt with appropriately by British Courts.

The effect of PAS on children has been investigated by relatively few individuals in the United Kingdom so far. I should like to acknowledge my own gratitude to one researcher, Dr Richard A. Gardner for the work he has done in this area. (Gardner 1992, 1998, 2001), particularly on behalf of those who find themselves in a PAS situation and need some guidance and assistance to convince others that such a phenomenon exists. There are both short term and long term of parental alienation syndrome on children. Whatever one may think, the children become victims, not of their own making, but of their parents, most especially the parent who is carrying out the alienation process.

We hear a great deal about child abuse, increasingly so, especially sexual abuse, but less so about emotional abuse resulting from PAS. Many would consider parental alienation syndrome and the process of indoctrination to be a form of child abuse, since children are being used for the purpose of animosity and even revenge. This animosity being shown toward the alienated parent can have a terrible effect on the child in question. Those children who are participating in the alienation process are often unaware of its impact. They merely feel the consequences or take-on the views of the alienating parent. Such views that the other parent is “evil”, “wicked”, “stupid” or “dangerous” or all of these, can do untold damage to the relationship with the non-custodial parent who is being alienated. Children may be used as “spies” or “saboteurs” in relation to the alienated parent to provide “ammunition” for the alienator or “fuel for the fire” to be used against them. Additionally, the children are encouraged to treat the alienated parent with a lack of respect with the purpose of humiliating him/her. This is often taken up by the immediate family of the alienator. Some children may even be encouraged to behave in a deceitful manner toward the other parent when visiting, by lying, stealing and causing problems with another person with whom the parent may have developed a new relationship. False accusations may also be levelled against the alienated parent on the grounds of false information supplied by the child. Eager misinterpretation of information given to the alienating parent is then grasped to denigrate the other parent with whom they may be having a custody battle. Denial of this will of course be made by the alienator.

Encouraging a child to betray one of the two most important members of the family produces a tendency towards psychopathic behaviour within that child. Once the denigration process has started, the child, due to the pressure of loyalty on him/her and the power wielded by the alienator needs to carry on the process of denigration.

Children who suffer from the syndrome of PAS develop a concept that one parent is the loving parent and hence to be loved back while the other is the hated parent who has done ‘wicked and nasty things’, and abandoned the family. This has been consciously or unconsciously indoctrinated into the child and results in fear as well as hatred for the alienated parent. Virtually all negative indoctrination is carried out by the parent who retains the child in residence.

In cases of PAS in which I have been involved, I have found that the child has developed a hatred for the non-resident parent (usually the father) and there have been attempts to denigrate and vilify the alienated parent. The destruction of one parent can have serious consequences, not immediately recognisable in the short-term, but more so in the long-term. One might say the child has been robbed of the possibility of having a supportive and caring parent. All memories of a good relationship have been destroyed. Additionally, there often has been brainwashing in order to make the child fearful of the alienated parent, very often the father. The animosity created permeates often to the extended family of the alienated parent. This means the child will not merely lose one of his/her parents but also the grandparents.

Another common reaction of children who have been programmed is to pretend to the alienator that they have hatred or dislike for the alienated parent, when in fact they do not feel this way, and do not demonstrate this in the presence of the alienated parent. Hence they have practised deception and a form of lying in order to placate the alienator, while at the same time seeking to form some kind of warm relationship with the absent parent. Such deception is unlikely to lead to an individual who will be truthful and honest in other dealings now or in the future.

Exploitation of the alienated parent either by the child or by the alienator can also be practiced This is done in various ways including seeking money or clothes or other material objects for the children who are then used in this scheme of manipulation. The manipulator may clothe the children in the shabbiest of clothes hoping the alienated parent will be forced to buy new clothes for the child. This teaches the child a strategy that is unlikely to endear him/her to others in the future, and is also likely to be repeated by him/her. Other forms of deception can be carried out over the telephone by saying the child is absent when the other parent calls, when in fact this is not the case. They simply are not allowed to speak to the parent calling. The child who is aware of the conversation learns from this that lying is acceptable. This may also cause confusion with the child and forms a further rift with the alienated parent, especially if they are not informed that the parent has called to ask after them to make an appropriate arrangement for contact.

Lying and deception can become part of the child’s life, especially if he/she wishes to endear himself/herself to the alienating parent. This may be especially so if the other parent has another family or relationship. This deception will develop a power of manipulation through lies and will continue into later life and reflect on the child’s own relationships in the future. In contrast non-PAS homes do not maintain control over the child and the custodial parent does all he/she can to promote a healthy feeling towards the other parent by being truthful and to encourage the child to love and respect that parent. It is important that parents who have been divorced or separated do all they can to enhance the feelings of the child for the parent with whom they are not in residence, and vice-versa.

As the child grows older in a family where PAS takes place, the position often reverses. The child realises he/she is in a position of strength where he/she they may manipulate situations in order to get his/her way. This in turn reduces the capacity of the alienating parent to utilise discipline to create the right type of ethical behaviour. The alienated parent is dependent on the child to continue the process of alienation. The child can use this against the alienating parent and frequently becomes undisciplined as a result. Neither parent can do anything with the child and the child is the loser in the end.

In severe cases of PAS the alienator can create a seriously unhappy situation for the child who will often develop panic reactions when he/she is asked to visit the alienated parent. This in turn can lead to repercussions in his/her attitude to school and his/her capacity to concentrate on education. In some cases, there can be psychotic delusions in the child due to the pressure to passively submit to the alienating parent. In some cases intensive psychological treatment is required to overcome such serious disturbances. Serious indoctrination giving the child warped and worried views of the alienated parent, following therapy, may learn to be able to be more rational and realistic in the way he/she views the alienated parent. This is difficult to resolve in the very young as well as in the older child who may have developed a habit of hatred for the alienated parent.

The most interesting scenario is when the child who has been party to the alienation realises what the alienating parent has done and eventually turns against them. This may be through a falling-out, or merely through the emotional development of the child later in life. Sometimes the child will seek the alienated parent and find out the truth it at least be able to see things from the alienated parent’s perspective.


Do the children of parental alienation have rights?

What follows is a set of rights proposed by Divorce Headquarters on the internet (” which I would like to endorse. It fits in well with the problems encountered in PAS and is in the best interest of the child.

“We the children of the divorcing parents, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish these Bill Of Rights for all children.

I.            The right not to be asked to “choose sides” or be put in a situation where I would have to take sides between my parents.

II.            The right to be treated as a person and not as a pawn, possession or a negotiating chip.

III.            The right to freely and privately communicate with both parents.

IV.            The right not to be asked questions by one parent about the other.

V.            The right not to be a messenger.

VI.            The right to express my feelings.

VII.            The right to adequate visitation with the non-custodial parent which will best serve my needs and wishes.

VIII.            The right to love and have a relationship with both parents without being made to feel guilty.

IX.            The right not to hear either parent say anything bad about the other.

X.            The right to the same educational opportunities and economic support that I would have had if my parents did not divorce.

XI.            The right to have what is in my best interest protected at all times.

XII.            The right to maintain my status as a child and not to take on adult responsibilities for the sake of the parent’s well-being.

XIII.            The right to request my parents seek appropriate emotional and social support when needed.

XIV.            The right to expect consistent parenting at a time when little in my life seems constant or secure.

XV.            The right to expect healthy relationship modelling, despite the recent events.

XVI.            The right to expect the utmost support when taking the time and steps needed to secure a healthy adjustment to the current situation.

    Please realize that this is NOT law, anywhere.
The “Children’s’ Bill of Rights” is not legally enforceable, but rather suggestions made to keep the best interest of the child a priority.”

All of the above situations I have personally come across when dealing with cases of PAS. Unfortunately there has not been the willingness of the parents to resolve the situations not the backing of the courts to uphold censures against the alienating parent. Also, severe lack of funds for treatment or mediation limit what can be done. Much of the liaison is left to the Court Welfare Officers who do not have the clinical qualifications to carry out the necessary treatment for the children who are, or will be, the victims of the “warring factions”. Expert testimony is sought only if the court is unsure of what direction to take in the case, and also to guide the court as to the character of the alienated parent and the manner in which contact visits should continue, i.e. supervised or unsupervised. If called to assist in a case I take this opportunity to spread the literature on PAS and seed to educate the Judiciary and others of the existence of PAS.

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Southern England Psychological Services

We offer an independent psychological service to schools, parents, families, barristers and the courts. Dr Ludwig F Lowenstein (BA, MA, Dip.Psych, C.Psychol Ph.D) is a Chartered Psychologist, as well as a member of the British and American Psychological Associations. He was recently made President Elect (2010) of the International Council of Psychologists. He is also a former Director of the International Council of Psychologists. Being a director of ‘Southern England Psychological Services’, he diagnoses treatments in children and adults with various psychological problems. A forensic psychologist dealing with cases onpersonal injury, criminal behaviour, educational, family and children problems (specialising in parental alienation). Please feel free to for more information. Working in defence of clients and prosecution with 40 years of experience and over 400 articles (published over a dozen books in the areas of psychology) we offer a professional, efficient, qualitative and comprehensive service.

Southern England Psychological Services work in several areas:

  • Forensic psychology.
  • Medico-legal assessments and treatment
  • Educational assessments
  • Employee and employer disputes leading to tribunals.
  • Working with children, adolescent and adult problems of various kinds.
  • We publish widely in the area of forensic psychology including medico-legal problems and criminal areas. (see publications on this website).

    Medico-Legal Work

    We assess individuals on a medico-legal basis using an independent expert witness. We have been doing this for over 30 years with considerable success and satisfied clients, many solicitors, as well as private individuals. The Southern England Psychological Service based in Hampshire and London provides expert solutions to problems of individuals as well as companies.

    We provide a service for Solicitors and Barristers and provide expert witness testimony acting in both criminal and civil cases. Our expert witness will be highly trained to provide the best possible service. We work quickly, especially if there is a necessity for doing so, to provide an assessment, and a clear concise report. We receive both single and joint instructions.

    Private Individuals

    We offer a psycho-diagnostic assessment for children, adolescents as well as adults and provide a swift reporting system on our findings.We also offer treatment as a follow-up and advise as to how the client can best be helped in the future. In the area of treatment we use cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and other useful techniques likely to achieve their end of helping individuals to improve in a wide range of psychological difficulties.

    We provide risk assessment in a number of areas based on in-depth interviews and psychological tests, both for children and adults as well as families. This includes cognitive as well as personality testing.

    In the work setting

    In the work setting we provide information on improving mental health, reducing stress and burn-out and increasing productivity. We also work to improve communications within the organisation and resulting conflicts.


    Child abuse problems, minimum and maximum brain damage, psychological aspects of delinquent or criminal activities, failure to receive education according to their special needs, parental alienation syndrome, child custody disputes.


    Emotional and behavioural problems, serious crimes wherein there is a psychological factor explaining the behaviour, crimes committed as a result of subnormality or moral imbecility, munchausen syndrome, and clients accused of sex offences, rape, fetishes, homicide, substance abuse, alcoholism, kleptomania, arson, road rage (aggression in driving), fitness to plead; educational problems such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysorthographia, brain injury, and special needs; problems facing children such as child sex abuse; parental alienation syndrome (PAS), child custody disputes; personal injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and other stress-related illness, minimal brain dysfunction.

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Healing hearts, changing minds and CAFCASS: the power of the positive

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Protect Yourself and Your Kids from a Toxic Divorce, False Accusations, and Parental Alienation

“When three great minds like these collaborate, a prism is created through which a light of wisdom can shine in the darkest of places. A mustread for all people touched by this unfathomable dilemma.”
—Judge Michele Lowrance (ret), mediator and author of The Good Karma Divorce and Parental Alienation 911

“In each journey through parental alienation, it is easy to lose the way. What seems to be a clear and just path in navigating family court is not always reality. Amy J. L. Baker, Brian Ludmer, and J. Michael Bone have given alienated parents a comprehensive road map that allows them to make their journey through this highly emotional period with level heads and hearts. The authors’ work empowers readers and leaves them feeling revived, secure, and confident as they travel to their final destination: reunification with their children.”
—Jill Egizii, president of the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization, USA

“The HighConflict Custody Battle is a joint effort by writers with complementary skills and expertise: Amy J. L. Baker, PhD, is a research psychologist who has studied child psychological abuse; J. Michael Bone, PhD, is a clinical and forensic psychologist; and Brian Ludmer, BComm, LLB, is an attorney whose practice focusses on high conflict family law. The three authors have created a book that is both scholarly and highly practical, which will be helpful for mothers and fathers who find themselves coping with a difficult, overly litigious marital separation or divorce. The book addresses in detail the personal and legal crises that frequently occur in highconflict divorce, such as parental alienation; allegations of domestic violence and child sexual abuse; and undertaking a child custody evaluation. It is notable that the authors acknowledge that all the participants in these legal battles have both flaws and biases, so no one is expected to be perfect. Although this book is primarily intended for divorcing parents, it will also be good reading for mental health and legal professionals, including judges.”
—William Bernet, MD, professor emeritus in the department of psychiatry, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN

“Having recently tried the most publicized parental alienation case to a successful conclusion, I highly recommend this book for parents coping with an alienating spouse. The authors have provided an effective guide to assist parents through difficult litigation. This book should be read by every targeted parent.”
—Jim Pritikin, fellow of The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

About the Author
Amy J. L. Baker, PhD, has a doctorate in developmental psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University, and is a professional writer and researcher. She is the author of Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome and coauthor of Coparenting with a Toxic Ex, among other books and articles on parental alienation and parentchild relationships.

J. Michael Bone, PhD, has a doctorate from the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science of the New School for Social Research in New York, NY. He has served as a mental health expert, consultant, and advisor to the court on parental alienation cases around the United States, and maintains a consulting practice in Florida.

Brian Ludmer, BComm, LLB, is an attorney whose practice is based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has a Bachelor of Commerce (1982) and Bachelor of Law (1985) from the University of Toronto. Ludmer has practiced corporate and securities law for twentyseven years and in parallel he conducts a family law practice focused on situations involving custody disputes, child estrangement, and parental alienation, as well as high net worth divorce litigation and business valuation.

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Hating Half of Myself I Child of Parental Alienation I Ryan Thomas Speaks

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Separated Parents Information Programmes (SPIP)

Separated Parents Information Programmes are designed to help parents learn more about the challenges of post-separation parenting, including the effects on children of ongoing conflict. It also  aims to provide advice and support about how best to help children in this situation and enables parents to take steps towards their own solutions. Most parents that go on the course find it very helpful. Parents in the same case always go to different SPIP sessions, but it is always important that both parents do attend. SPIP is run in groups.

Further information for service users is available in the SPIP Factsheet.

You can find a list of SPIP providers in your area in the DRS SPIP Service User Directory

SPIP is available when a court makes a court ordered activity as part of private law family proceedings in a family court. Service users can then choose their preferred SPIP provider for the list available.

If you wish to attend SPIP in Wales (where the equivalent is Working Together for Children) you should contact Cafcass

There is no charge where English courts make a court ordered activity in Wales:

The  Liz Trinder PIP Research Powerpoint Presentation is available here

The Executive Summary of the research is available here

Please visit for the full Research document.

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Hostile aggressive parenting (HAP)

  • Often seen in high-conflict situations where an adult is unable to get over the separation and uses the child to control or seek revenge on the target parent. These parents cannot acknowledge their child’s needs, may view children as belonging just to them and often cannot see the damage they are inflicting on their children.
  • Sometimes these types of situations can develop so a child is significantly influenced by one parent to completely reject the other parent, placing them in a situation where they must view one parent as bad and one parent as good.  This leaves no space for a child to love both parents. The child is forced to deny or reject a part of themselves. Any intervention should be guided by the assessment of a qualified professional.
  • Can extend beyond the parent-child relationship and include other significant adults in a child’s life such as grandparents or step-parents.
  • It is important to remember, however, to consider all possible causes when a child distances themselves from a parent.  It may not be the fault of the other parent. HAP does not always lead to the child’s rejection of the target parent. But it greatly interferes with the development of a healthy parent child relationship.

Here are some tips for managing these situations:


  • Understand the problem so that you can act before things get worse.
  • Seek professional support to help you manage the stress and emotional drain.
  • Seek good legal representation when necessary. Ensure your lawyer is educated about Hostile Aggressive Parenting.
  • Behave with integrity. You may not have control over the other parent’s actions, but you can control how you handle the situation with your children.
  • Maintain contact and be consistent with your children.Despite their attempts to reject you, follow through with what you say you will do.
  • Offer children an alternative perception of reality whenever possible. It is okay to say that you do not agree with the other parent’s actions, but do not criticise them as this may push your child further away.
  • Give clear messages to your children, such as ‘children should not have to choose one parent over the other’ or ‘this is an issue between Mum and Dad’.


  • Put your child in the middle of adult issues.
  • Blame your children for the rejection. They are being placed in a situation where, to be embraced by one parent, they must reject the other.
  • Think you don’t matter to your children – you do. Your child still needs you and cannot manage this situation without support.
  • Give up. It may take years before you see change.

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Parental alienation in the UK

On the whole, I am not someone who finds the routine use of labels helpful. However, in the case of Parental Alienation, I strongly believe the failure to use this label in the UK has perpetuated a lack of understanding and helplessness in those that work in this area. This helplessness parallels the experience of the 54 mothers and fathers who took part in my recent research study. For these parents, the “Parental Alienation” label enabled them to begin to make sense of their experience through accessing the large volume of literature and, more limited, peer support available. Yet despite this understanding, their sense of powerlessness was exacerbated by their encounters with the courts, Cafcass, social care services and legal professionals.

In my clinical and consultancy work, I continue to hear from the majority of parents, and many solicitors, that raising parental alienation as a concept is a non-starter. In the process of preparing my research manuscripts for publication, I found it necessary to seek some clarity on the official position regarding parental alienation.

Despite recent versions of the Cafcass Operating Framework making clear reference to parental alienation (Cafcass, 2012, 2014) there seems to be a refusal to use the term itself in communications. In a recent personal communication to Cafcass I stated that I was currently preparing my manuscripts for submission and “I require clarification of the Cafcass position on Parental Alienation in order that I can accurately convey it in the article.” Their response contained no inclusion of Parental Alienation as a term; they repeatedly refer to “implacable hostility”.

Cafcass does understand and recognise the potential for implacable hostility by a party in high conflict private law cases. Our practitioners are aware of the potential for children to be influenced by parental views and will remain live to this issue throughout the progress of a case. (Cafcass, 2015)

CAFCASS Cymru, a separate organisation under the auspices of the Welsh Assembly stated that:

… the position of CAFCASS Cymru is that parental alienation is not recognised as a syndrome by UK medical, academic or legal sectors. However we recognise that sadly some parents … do attempt to influence their children. Emotional harm to a child can occur when a parent attempts to alienate a child from the other parent following separation.  (CAFCASS Cymru, 2015)

In direct contradiction to the CAFCASS Cymru statement, Resolution, the association for family lawyers, refers to “Parental Alienation Syndrome” in a leaflet for parents (Resolution, 2008). However in the last few weeks, they have removed “Parental Alienation Syndrome” from their web-site, referring to “Hostile Aggressive Parenting”.

With such muddying of the waters, is it any wonder that so many families and children fail to receive the support and intervention needed to enable them to navigate the difficult path through conflicted family breakdown?

This lack of common reference and understanding suggests a failure to grasp the complexity of parental alienation. It is not a single factor phenomenon in which one parent alone acts to deliberately alienate a child from the other, except in extreme and severe cases. It is a complex issue of interpersonal and systemic dynamics, developmental processes, personality traits, individual characteristics and contextual and environmental factors which can lead to the rejection of a loving, caring parent and a life marred by psychological distress and relationship difficulties.

Read the full article

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Parental Alienation:the debate around inclusion in DSM-5

Parental Alienation is a phrase often used in the context of high conflict relationship breakdown.  It refers to the actions of a parent to harm their child’s relationship with the other parent, where this had previously been a normal loving relationship.  Over a period of time, the child may become hostile, vitriolic and abusive, often culminating with the total rejection of the parent.
A pattern of behaviours which are common to cases of alienation was first described by Gardner in the 1980s.  Whilst his research has been criticised, the behaviours and symptoms he identified have been further explored and developed.  Worldwide, there continues to be a debate as to whether the behaviour patterns exhibited by a child constitute a disorder or syndrome – Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).  There appears to be some consensus that some children do alienate a parent and a wider range of views on the significance of parental behaviours involved in the alienation process.
This presentation will review the evidence for Parental Alienation and explore the wide-ranging debate surrounding the potential inclusion of Parental Alienation in DSM-V.