Parental Alienation Legal Definition:

A form of emotional child abuse where a custodial parent belittles or vilifies the other parent to the child.

Related Terms: Parent

Parental alienation is a significant legal issue. Unfortunately, it remains a prevalent feature of many family law cases. It intent and effect is to destroy the present and future relationship between a child and the alienated parent. The brainwashing is very effective because it is delivered upon a young, emotionally vulnerable and impressionable mind.

There is no cure for parental alienation not arrested in time. No parent, for example, who has been unfairly alienated can ever retrieve the father-child, or mother-child time lost with their child.

In any event of prolonged parental alienation, an emotional time bomb is implanted into the child. Even if amends are later made, the child either turns against the alienating parent, or reserves in regards to the alienated one; both, in any event, stifling that child's development into a fully developed and emotionally mature adult and parent in his or her own right.

In R v KC, Justice Sheppard adopted these words:

"The parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a childhood disorder that arises almost exclusively in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent. When true parental abuse and/or neglect is present, the child’s animosity may be justified and so the parental alienation syndrome explanation for the child’s hostility is not applicable."

In a 2007 Ontario case, CS v MS, Justuce Perkins recognized not only the devastating effect of parental alinetaion but also the complxities it presents to the court:

"Children who are subject to the parental alienation syndrome (I will call them PAS children) are very powerful in their views of the non-alienating parent. The views are almost exclusively negative, to the point that the parent is demonized and seen as evil....

"PAS children feel empowered and are rewarded for attacking the other parents and feel no remorse or shame for doing so.

"PAS children have a knee jerk, reflexive response to support the alienator against the targeted parent, often on the basis of minimal evidence or justification. PAS children broaden their attacks to encompass members of the other parent’s extended family.

"PAS children are recruited by the alienating parent and alienated siblings to the alienating parent’s cause.

"With PAS children, you cannot be sure who you are listening to – is it the child (or) is it the alienating parent?"

In BSP, Justice Acton adopted these words:

"Parental alienation occurs when one parent convinces the children that the other parent is not trustworthy, loveable or caring – in short, not a good parent.

"(S)uch manipulation of the children, with the resulting alienation, carries very high risks. It can seriously distort a child’s developing personality and subsequent life adjustment. The sooner it is identified and appropriate interventions are implemented, the better the child’s chances of avoiding its worst long-term effects."

In PLC v CJP, Justice Graham adopted these words to define parental alienation:

"... a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from a combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent.

"PAS is more than brainwashing or programming, because the child has to actually participate in the denigrating of the alienated parent. This is done in primarily the following eight ways:

  • The child denigrates the alienated parent with foul language and severe oppositional behaviour;

  • The child offers weak, absurd, or frivolous reasons for his or her anger;

  • The child is sure of him or herself and doesn’t demonstrate ambivalence, i.e. love and hate for the alienated parent, only hate;

  • The child exhorts that he or she alone came up with the idea of denigration;

  • The child supports and feels a need to protect the alienating parent;

  • The child does not demonstrate guilt over cruelty towards the alienated parent;

  • The child uses borrowed scenarios, or vividly describes situations that he or she could not have experienced;

  • Animosity is spread to also include the friends and/or extended family of the alienated parent.”

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