BC Parental Alienation Estrangement Lawyers handle high conflict cases where children resist contact with one of their parents. Nothing could be more disturbing to a parent than one of their children resisting contact or worse still expressing fear or hatred towards them.
There are various degrees of parental alienation being mild, moderate and severe. Usually, a number of factors are present and the parties and their children’s behaviours often interact in an unfortunate combination that leads to alienation and estrangement.
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In today’s blog Lorne MacLean, QC and Fraser MacLean of MacLean Law’s team of BC Parental Alienation Estrangement Lawyers review a recent case that provides the current state of the law and treatment plans for cases involving BC Parental Alienation Estrangement. The Honourable Justice Young’s decision in M.A.N.R. v D.J.S, 2018 BCSC 2136 explains the law and different therapies for trying to reverse the alienation in the extracts below.
BC Parental Alienation Estrangement Lawyers – What Is It?
Lorne MacLean, QC and Fraser MacLean have highlighted the key factual findings and legal principles:
 The label of “parental alienation” is blame-laden. It suggests that a favoured parent has campaigned against the rejected parent and altered the child’s perception of that parent. In a case of true alienation, there will be little objectively reasonable cause for the child’s rejection of the parent: N.R.G. v. G.R.G., 2015 BCSC 1062 (CanLII) at paras. 277-278.  Estrangement, on the other hand, occurs when the child understandably refuses contact with a parent because of that parent’s behaviour. In other words, there is a logical and rational reason for the child’s rejection of the parent.  I accept the premise that in many cases, elements of alienation and estrangement may coexist.  In Williamson v. Williamson, 2016 BCCA 87 (CanLII), the Court of Appeal adopted Justice Barrow’s description of parental alienation inD.S.W. v. D.A.W., 2012 BCSC 1522 (CanLII). Barrow J. stated that at the core of parental alienation is:
… the notion that the child’s decision to refuse to have a relationship with the targeted parent is without justification or without convincing reason. If there is a reason given by the child for taking the extreme step of refusing to have a relationship with a parent, it will often be out of all proportion to the decision taken. The reasons for such decisions need to be assessed with the particular personality and experience of the child involved. What may seem a thin or unconvincing rationale for one child may have a much more convincing force in the context of the personality and experience of another child.
BC Parental Alienation Estrangement Lawyers – How Often Does It Occur?
Studies of decision across Canada found that although parental alienation is claimed in a number of high conflict cases it is actually found to exist in less than one-quarter of the cases. in M.A.N.R. v D.J.S, 2018 BCSC 2136 the Court held it had occurred:
 I agree with Dr. Krywaniuk’s assessment that this is a situation of severe estrangement bordering on alienation.  If these parents had a functional co-parenting relationship, they might have sat down with S.R.S., discussed his hurt feelings, and resolved the matter within weeks if not immediately. Unfortunately, this family lacks the tools to take these positive steps. The claimant does not want S.R.S. to be forced into the respondent’s care without prior counselling and proper support.  I am most concerned about the claimant’s passive and indifferent approach to resolution. She may be incapable of more.  By the end of the trial, the parties had narrowed the therapeutic options to two programs. The claimant prefers the Vancouver-based Reach Program offered by Dr. Susan Gamache. The respondent prefers the Ontario-based Families Moving Forward program offered by Dr. Shely Polak.  I must determine which intervention is most appropriate for S.R.S in light of s. 37 of the FLA. This is an initial guardianship and parenting order and therefore, I need not find a material change in circumstances.  Before analysing the two programs, I will briefly review the direction courts have provided on selecting appropriate therapeutic interventions.
BC Parental Alienation Estrangement Lawyers – Legal Principles
Courts understand that alienation is contrary to the best interests of the child. However, what should the Courts do?
 The starting point is an acknowledgment that it is contrary to the best interests of a child to become unjustifiably estranged from a parent whether as a result of alienation or a combination of factors: J.M.G. v. L.D.G., 2016 ONSC 3042 (CanLII) at para. 103.  Forced participation in a reunification program is not always in the best interests of the child. The Court must consider the factors set out in s. 37 (2)of the FLA such as the child’s emotional well-being, need for stability, strength of relationships with different parents and the ability of the parents to cooperate on issues affecting the child: K.M.H. v. P.S.W., 2018 BCSC 1318 (CanLII) at para. 47.
 In Williamson, the British Columbia Court of Appeal considered a residential reunification program involving a change of custody to be a draconian order. The Court said that such a drastic order should never have been considered absent a finding of alienation, and absent careful consideration of alternative remedies. The Court noted that the residential reunification program had been described as a “last resort” (M. v. M., 2015 BCSC 1297 (CanLII)at para. 153), “drastic” (N.R.G. v. G.R.G., 2015 BCSC 1062 (CanLII) at para. 322), and “draconian” (L.D.K. v. M.A.K., 2015 BCSC 226 (CanLII) at para. 106). The Court encouraged future courts to consider a range of mechanisms available to address alienation. The respondent relied on a number of cases where extreme alienation was found including, C.J.J. v. A.J., 2016 BCSC 676 (CanLII); J.A.F. v. J.J.F.,2018 BCSC 84 (CanLII); J.C.W. v. J.K.R.W, 2014 BCSC 488 (CanLII). In those cases, the Court was prepared to order residential reunification therapy.
BC Parental Alienation Estrangement Lawyers – Treatment Plans and Actions
 My focus has to be on the best interests of S.R.S. I find an immediate reversal of custody to be too severe for this situation. I must keep in mind Dr. Krywaniuk’s comment that S.R.S. is quite emotionally fragile and needs to be engaged carefully and sensitively. He will need assurance that his mother will survive emotionally and that she supports his relationship with his father. S.R.S. may not cope with being completely removed from the claimant’s care and placed in the respondent’s care.
 I have found that this is not a severe case of alienation. It is a hybrid case of estrangement bordering on alienation. The claimant has engaged in alienating behaviours. However, the respondent’s conduct toward the claimant and S.R.S., and his inability to see that he has any responsibility for S.R.S.’s estrangement has also contributed to the situation. I prefer Dr. Gamache’s program, which employs a family systems model, assigns a counsellor for each family member, and does not use a coercive approach to reunification.  It is my view that the best approach for this family would be to have a focused period of counselling for one to two weeks, followed by ongoing counselling for each family member for a minimum of one year.  I find that it is in the best interests of S.R.S. for the claimant and respondent to continue to share guardianship and work towards an equal parenting time regime as quickly as is warranted and recommended by the Reach Program.