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Parental Alienation and Reverse-Parenting Orders – A “Drastic” Remedy

Today’s blog by senior family lawyer Peter Graburn, concerns Parental Alienation and Reverse-Parenting Orders – A “Drastic” Remedy. Our Vancouver Parental Alienation and Calgary parental alienation lawyers know prompt action in these cases is key as is long term monitoring.

Parental Alienation. A term that is raised a lot in high-conflict family law matters these days. And a serious allegation. But it is serious. Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is when a parent intentionally and systematically attempts (often during high conflict child custody disputes) to negatively influence the child’s relationship with the other parent, often leading to the complete breakdown of that relationship. It can often also lead to long term damage to the personal growth, mental health and future relationships of the child. It’s serious; it’s toxic; it’s abuse. (For more on Parental Alienation and how to deal with it, see: Best Ways to Stop Parental Alienation” .

Vancouver Parental Alienation and Reverse-Parenting Orders Tel: 604 602 9000

The BC the law on Vancouver parental alienation is nicely summarized in Williamson v. Williamson2016 BCCA 87 at para. 42) says there is no one size fits all solution for Vancouver parental alienation disputes and the only consideration of the appropriate remedy is the child’s best interests both short and long term (para. 45).  In N.R.G. v. G.R.G.2015 BCSC 1062 at para. 288 in Williamson (at para. 43) the court listed options:

  • Detailed case management and parental conduct orders with consequences for non-compliance.
  • Judicial exhortation urging compliance and emphasizing the emotional harm caused to the children (generally only effective in less severe cases of alienation).
  • Court-ordered therapeutic intervention where appropriate, while recognizing that “force-marching” a child to reunification may in some cases be unrealistic and harmful.
  • Ordering supervised access/parenting time in Vancouver parental alienation cases to allay any child anxiety and possibly pave the way for further strategies to achieve positive relationships.
  • Suspension of child or spousal support as a sanction to enforce more engagement with the other parent.
  • Transferring custody from the alienating parent to the rejected parent in Vancouver parental alienation cases where expert testimony establishes the long-term benefits will outweigh any short-term emotional trauma to the child.
  • Terminating access by/parenting time of the alienated parent when the alienation is so entrenched that the cure is worse than the illness.
Parental Alienation and Reverse-Parenting Orders – A “Drastic” RemedyLawyers
Vancouver family lawyers Fraser MacLean, Keith Bracken and Lorne MacLean, KC

Calgary Parental Alienation and Reverse-Parenting Orders – A “Drastic” Remedy Tel: 403 444 5503

Calgary parental alienation approaches track the BC approach. So once identified (usually by a professional psychologist under a Practice Note 8 Assessment in Alberta or a s.211 Report in BC), how do Courts deal with the negative effects of Calgary Parental Alienation on children? Recent changes to the Divorce Act confirm that while maximizing parenting time with both parents is important, parenting decisions must be made “in the best interest of the child” – a child-focussed approach. Aside from awarding substantial court costs against an alienating parent (see: Parental Alienation and Court Costs”, ), the Alberta Courts have set out four (4) parenting options to address the negative affects of  Calgary Parental Alienation on the child (see: RMB v. DTB 2019 ABQB 826 at para. 112; JLZ v. CMZ 2021 ABCA 200 at para 63), being:

1.   Do nothing and leave the child with the alienating parent;

2.   Direct a custody reversal by placing the child with the rejected parent;

3.   Leave the child with the favoured parent and order therapy; or

4.   Provide a transitional placement where the child is placed with a neutral party and therapy is provided so that eventually the child can be placed with the rejected parent.

Parental Alienation and Reverse-Parenting Orders – A “Drastic” Remedy
Peter Graburn senior Calgary family lawyer MacLean Law

The second option (custody reversal) may take many forms, but Courts may sometimes grant a parenting Order that totally reverses the parenting arrangement and gives primary (or even sole) parenting of the child(ren) to the rejected (ie. alienated) parent either temporarily or permanently, a Reverse-Parenting Order.  Reverse-Parenting Orders may also severely limit (or even deny) or order supervised parenting time by the alienating parent to the effected child(ren) for a minimum period.

Calgary parental alienation Custody reversal and reverse-parenting Orders are admittedly (even by the Courts) an extreme approach to attempting to deal with the negative effects of parental alienation on children. In AAG v. JLG (2022 ABQB 119), in refusing to grant a reverse-parenting Order in regard to four (some younger, some older) children, Justice Dilts held (at para.114):

“It is consistently messaged in the case law and was also reinforced by both parenting experts in this trial that it is in children’s best interests to have healthy, meaningful relationships with both of their parents. Where the children’s best interests are not being met, a court may order a change in parenting where it is in the children’s best interests to do so. However, a change in parenting is an extreme remedy that should not be lightly ordered… A reversal of custody is viewed as a drastic response to a family breakdown but can be ordered when needed to stop alienating behaviours by a parent.” 

Similarly, in LS v. MK (2023 ABKB 487), in finding a reverse-parenting Order would not be in the best interests of the 13 and 14-year old children who ‘staunchly opposed” parenting time with their alienated parent, Justice Feasby held (at para.108):

“A Reverse Parenting Order is a drastic remedy that carries with it significant risk to the well-being of children.  John-Paul Boyd (citation omitted) outlined factors that must be considered before granting a Reverse Parenting Order:

a)  the change must be likely to result in the restoration of the child’s relationship with the rejected parent (if the child’s alienation is too deeply entrenched, the change may not repair the parent-child relationship);

b)  the short-term distress of the change must be outweighed by the long-term benefit the change will yield for the child;

c)  the rejected parent must have the parenting capacity and emotional health to provide a positive, nurturing environment for the child (arguably, the parenting offered by the rejected parent should be at least as good, if not better, than the parenting offered by the favoured parent); and,

d)  the vigour with which the child will resist the change in residence, and the likelihood that the child will engage in adverse behaviours such as running away, self-harm and substance abuse.

Parental Alienation. A term that is raised a lot in high-conflict family law matters these days. Perhaps so much that the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL) has urged the federal government to further amend the Divorce Act to ban parental alienation arguments in family law cases, calling PAS “sexist and unscientific theory” and “pseudoscience” (“Ban ‘parental alienation’ arguments in family law cases, feminist coalition urges federal government ). But its effects can be serious.

And attempts to deal with its effects on children by reversing the alienating parenting arrangement are also serious. Alberta Courts have recognized that Reverse-Parenting Orders are an extreme and drastic remedy and response to parental alienation. One BC Court described it as “draconian” (LDK v. MAK, 2015 BCSC 226 at para. 106).

Parental Alienation Lawyers

But one may also question the effectiveness of Reverse-Parenting Orders, particularly in regard to teenage children who the Courts have recognized tend to ‘vote with their feet’ when it comes to deciding which (or either) parent they want to live with.

Parental Alienation and Reverse-Parenting Orders. Difficult topics.

One thing is clear when parental alienation is suspected, delay is the worst outcome for your children! Contact us now.