Because of the stressful nature of separation and divorce, it is not uncommon for this stress to manifest in ways including parental alienation done by one parent.
In Australian family law, parental alienation is a highly controversial concept. If you are wondering what is parental alienation, the simple definition is this:
“Parental alienation is a term that is used to describe the behaviour of one parent, who acts to undermine, and damage the relationship between the other parent and the child.”
The parent who acts this way is known as the “alienating” parent. This article aims to explore what is parental alienation, including the examples of parental alienation, and how courts deal with such matters.
This term is commonly used in high-conflict custody and parenting disputes in Australia. It is interesting to explore how parental alienation is dealt with in the Australian family law system.
Where Did The Concept Originate?
What Is Parental Alienation?
The concept of parental alienation is tied with Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) – first introduced in the United States by a child psychiatrist in the 1980s.
The psychiatrist, Richard Gardner, wanted to focus his study on the “alienated parent”, i.e. the parent against whom the alienating parent makes allegations, so as to distance the child from that parent.
According to his findings, he stated that in majority of families which were involved in custody litigations, the child had Parental Alienation Syndrome, but there was no substantial evidence to support his arguments about the syndrome.
In his work, he applied the theory of PAS mainly to allegations of sexual or physical abuse made against the alienated parent.
How does the alienating parent attempt to eradicate the relationship between the child and the other parent?
The alienating parent can use a combination of tactics, including: –
- Emotional manipulation
By using such strategies the alienating parent can successfully sabotage the relationship between the other parent and the child. However, this often leads to long-term, even life-long psychological trauma for both the child, and the alienated parent.
Methods Used By Alienating Parent To Damage Relationship Between Child And Alienated Parent
Now that we have briefly explored the question of what is parental alienation, let’s highlight some of the ways in which parental alienation occurs.
Under Australian family law, over the years, lawyers have witnessed different ways by which one parent facilitates parental alienation. This includes: –
- One parent sharing extra, often unnecessary details of the separation and divorce with the child;
- The alienating parent trying their best to make the child ‘unavailable’ to the other parent;
- Heavily criticising, insulting and belittling the other parent in front of the child;
- Suggesting that the child has been abused by the other parent – even in the absence of any solid evidence to support the allegation;
- Using the child to share information about the other parent, and making the child act as a spy; and
- Monitoring phone calls, and all other forms of communication between the parent and the child.
How Do Australian Courts Deal With Parental Alienation?
Although the answer to what is parental alienation is straightforward, the concept in itself remains largely ambiguous, with many unanswered questions. There is no single way by which Australian courts deal with such cases.
Importantly, although the courts deal with extreme family law cases which involve parental alienation, the first and foremost approach in dealing with such issues is through mediation or collaborative law.
Once these methods have been tried, if the dispute has still not been resolved, and if one parent continues to alienate the other parent, the alienated parent can take the issue to court.
If taken to court, as with most family law cases, such cases would also be dealt with by keeping the child’s best interests in mind. The best interests of the child are outlined in Section 60CC of the Family Law Act 1975.
Ultimately, the way each parental alienation case is assessed differs on the basis of the unique circumstances and details of the case.
What Is Parental Alienation: Case Study
In the case of Irish & Michelle  FamCA 66, the court found that the children’s relationship with the father was being damaged.
It was further found that the major contributors for this damage in relationship were the mother’s behaviour, her reaction to the breakdown of marriage, her and her family’s encouragement of negativity towards the father, etc.
For the court, this was a clear demonstration of the mother’s inability to act in good faith. The judge ordered that both parents have equal shared responsibility, and that the children live with their father (in Victoria) and spend all holidays with their mother (Tasmania).
Importance Of Seeking JB Solicitors’ Guidance
Since you have an idea about what is parental alienation, if you find yourself in the situation where you are experiencing alienation, you should consider dispute resolution as a primary step.
At JB Solicitors, our expert mediators will help facilitate a healthy discussion, thereby enabling you to reach your desired outcome.
If this primary step does not work, it is important to seek legal assistance from our experienced family lawyers. Because of how complex this case is, and because of its delicate nature (if not addressed properly, it can lead to long-term trauma for you and the child), it is important to gain efficient legal guidance to resolve this issue.
If you wish to approach the court and request that the court make appropriate orders, our expert lawyers can help you navigate through the legal procedures.
It is important to note that such matters put the child’s emotional well-being at stake, and should be treated with utmost care and diligence. Having a solicitors’s support will allow you to deal with these issues properly, thereby mitigating the chances of any emotional damage being caused to both you, and your child.
Contact our friendly lawyers today to have a confidential chat on this matter.