How To Deal With Parental Alienation – Dealing with PAS
Separation and divorce can be difficult, especially for children. One of the most serious and heartbreaking effects on children is parental alienation, where one parent either naively or intentionally and systematically attempts to negatively influence the child’s relationship with the other parent, often leading to the complete breakdown of that relationship. This can often occur in high-conflict child custody disputes. This should not be confused, however, with parental estrangement where, for other reasons (ie. age, gender, common-interests, parental capacity deficiencies, etc.) the child prefers to spend more time with one parent than the other. Our child custody lawyers in BC and Alberta deal with this issue regularly and know the strategies to try to stop parental alienation and in cases where it is wrongly alleged, how to defend against false claims. This is the third article on parental alienation by sage senior Calgary family lawyer, Peter Graburn.
How To Deal With Parental Alienation 1 877 602 9900
In the first part of this series we looked at some of the common warning signs (ie. “red-flags”) to identify parental alienation in children. In the second part of this series, we looked at how the Courts may react once parental alienation has been found to exist. In this final part of the series, we look at some of the strategies parents and their lawyers may consider dealing with the alienating parent’s attempts to influence the child against the alienated parent. Here is an article on the topic that provides a psychologist’s viewpoint.
How to Deal with Parental Alienation – Warning Signs
So if you suspect (or know) that your child is suffering from parental alienation (rather than going through a period of estrangement), how do you deal with it? How do you respond? There are ways to respond both outside the Courts and within the Court process. Things you can do outside the Court process include:
► Watch for the Warning Signs – in the first part of this series we outlined some of the common warning signs (ie. red-flags) of parental alienation. While some signs may be harder to detect than others, some may be pretty clear (ie. refusal to visit, keeping secrets with the other parent, etc.);
► Talk with your Child – while it may be difficult, it is important to maintain communication with your child not only to maintain the relationship, but also to try to determine whether the child is going through alienation or a period of estrangement, and why. However, be careful not to criticize or influence the child against the other parent;
► Document, Document, Document – while you shouldn’t get into a verbal or email/text battle with your ex, do keep a record of events, activities, and conversations, etc., with both the child and your ex – they will be important for use in Court, if necessary.
When in Court (ie. legal steps)
Psychologists and the Courts are clear that once parental alienation has been established (or suspected), the reaction must be swift and purposeful to prevent the alienation from having long-term effects on the child. This sometimes means Court action. But what steps can be taken in Court to attempt to counter and hopefully reverse the dangerous effects of parental alienation? Peter Graburn explains How To Deal With Parental Alienation below.
Some of the strategies for dealing with parental alienation in Court include:
► Court Applications and Orders – it is important to respond (or bring) Court Applications for custody or parenting time forcefully, and to vigorously enforce Court Orders (particularly for parenting time) once those Orders are granted. Justices are alert to the “red-flags” of parental alienation, and may support that parties pursue contempt proceedings if the alienating parent is not following Court ordered access to the child;
► Questioning and Response Affidavits – it is just as important to respond to legal proceedings outside of Court as in Court, either by preparing a Response Affidavit to correct (ie. deny) any false or misleading accusations of the alienating parent or by conducting Questioning on the other party’s Affidavit to get details on their vague accusations or admissions on their conduct regarding the child;
► Appoint a Lawyer for the Child – another option is to have the Court appoint a lawyer for the child, either to be the “voice of the child” (ie. expressing the wishes and preferences of the child) or an amicus (ie. friend) of the Court, expressing what the lawyer believes to be in the “best interests of the child”, even if that is not what the child is saying they want (due to being influenced by the alienating parent);
► Appoint a Psychologist – a Court may also order that a psychologist conduct a bilateral (Alberta Family Law Practice Note 7) assessment or even a full custodial (Practice Note 8) assessment of the child, and report back to the Court with their observations and recommendations for the on-going evaluation or therapy, or actual custody and parenting, of the child, and;
► Appoint a Case Management Judge – finally, psychologists, lawyers, and judges are all agreed that once parental alienation had been found to exist, the Courts should appoint a Case Management Justice to hear all further court matters regarding that child, and to ensure the child is receiving the necessary treatment and support to overcome the abuse and to minimize the long-term mental health effects on the child.
Best Vancouver and Calgary Family Lawyers Can Help
As we have indicated throughout this series, parental alienation is a complex and controversial topic. But once identified, the Courts are not afraid to label this behaviour as abusive, confirming that depriving the connection and healthy relationship of a child with one of their parents is not “in the best interests of the child”. If you have a question or case concerning: How To Deal With Parental Alienation, call us promptly toll-free at 1-877-602-9900.
As we have also indicated throughout this series, lawyers are not psychologists – we are not trained to identify symptoms of either personality disorder in adults nor parental alienation in children. But we do hear from our client’s concerns about both of these issues in the course of high-conflict child custody and access disputes. At MacLean Law, we understand that whether you suspect your ex-spouse of these abusive behaviours or you are being accused of this, not only is your relationship with your child at risk but also their current and future emotional and social health.