What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is used to describe a situation in which one parent manipulates a child into rejecting their relationship with the other parent.

In May of 2019, parental alienation was a candidate for inclusion on the World Health Organization’s 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) but was ultimately rejected as it was deemed “a judicial term and issue” rather than a medical one.

If you have questions about parental alienation or concerns about your children or grandchildren, contact Richmond Hill Family Lawyers for legal assistance.

How Does Parental Alienation Happen? 

In some cases of high-conflict divorce or separation, one parent can engage in behaviours that eventually lead the child to reject the other parent, including:

  • bad-mouthing the other parent and encouraging the child to do the same
  • arranging fun activities to conflict with time the child is supposed to spend with the other parent
  • causing the child to feel guilty about spending time with the other parent
  • causing the child to fear the other parent by describing them as dangerous
  • encouraging the child to spy on the other parent or report back on the other parent’s activities.

Concerns Relating to Allegations of Parental Alienation

While parental alienation has been documented to have devastating effects on the children affected, allegations of parental alienation in custody cases have raised another concern. Numerous parents, primarily women who were victims of family violence, have reported that an ex-spouse used false allegations of parental alienation to explain a child’s reluctance to continue a relationship with an abusive parent after a divorce or separation.

In many of these cases, any accusations the victim of abuse makes against the abuser are used as further evidence that the victim is trying to alienate the children from the abusive parent. this creates a no-win situation for the abused parent and increases the chance of an abused parent remaining in, or returning to, an abusive relationship to avoid losing custody of their children.

Many women’s organizations, including Canada’s Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), argued vehemently against the inclusion of parental alienation on the World Health Organization’s ICD-11 citing their “serious concerns about women’s safety and child development as [parental alienation] is frequently used in court to deny credible claims of abuse.”

Recent Changes to the Divorce Act

On March 1, 2021, changes to Canada’s Divorce Act came into effect that recognized this potentially problematic treatment of parental alienation allegations by the courts. These changes include:

  • a detailed definition of “family violence”
  • the requirement that the court consider family violence and its impact on the child when making decisions affecting the child
  • the removal of a presumption that maximizing parenting time with each parent is best
  • the removal of a presumption that custody should be granted to the parent who is more likely to encourage a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent (the “friendly-parent rule”).

The government has put these changes in place with the hope that they will give lawyers and the courts the tools to protect children from being victims of parental alienation, while preventing parental alienation from being used as a weapon against victims of domestic violence.

Contact Blackburn’s Family Lawyers Today

If you have questions relating to parental alienation or are seeking assistance with navigating this situation, our Richmond Hill family lawyers are here to help. Contact us today to book a consultation with a member of our legal team by dialing 905-884-9242.

*Disclaimer: Please note, that this blog is not intended to act as legal advice, merely to provide a general overview of the legal topic. As each legal issue is independent and unique it is important to access  legal advice. We recommend that you contact a Richmond Hill employment lawyer for any legal inquiries pertaining to family law.