Parental Alienation

You are going through an old photo album and you see pictures of you and your children. You guys used to have lots of fun together laughing, singing, playing games. Even doing homework used to be fun. Now, you feel lucky if your children want to spend even an hour with you. You think to yourself something happened down the road. Sure, you are now separated, but your children continue to have a great relationship with your ex! You think to yourself, could it be parental alienation?

Going back, you realize over time your role in your children’s lives has faded away. It all started with your ex saying that the children do not want to see you and you accepting that, reducing your parenting time, hoping one day the children will choose to spend more time with you.

As you are going down the memory lane in your head, trying to sort out what happened, you get a text message from you ex asking you to check your email. You got an email, Al’right. You open the email. It says see attached. You open  the attachment and you see a note to you in your sweet little girl’s handwriting:

“I hate you because you made me tie my shoe laces. You also made me take a shower at your place. I do not want to see you ever again. Do not call me. I do not want to talk to you. I do not want to see you ever again”.

Heart breaking, we get it. But, don’t worry you are not alone. We have dealt with several cases involving parental alienation. Depending on the level of alienation, you probably need to take legal action fairly quickly. Our Vancouver divorce lawyers are here to help.

What is parental alienation? – explained by Vancouver divorce lawyer

If your children do not want to spend time with you for unjustified reasons, you may be dealing with parental alienation. However, not every case of parenting dispute suggests parental alienation. Parental alienation happens when your child(ren) align themselves with the other parent (the alienating parent). Your children words and wishes will be the voice and wishes of someone else, commonly the other (alienating) parent. The court considers parental alienation a form of emotional abuse (L.D.K. v. M.A.K., 2015 BCSC 226 at para 98). Do not bring up allegations of parental alienation quickly, because those allegations are very serious and can have severe consequences, if the allegations are unfounded.

 What are the signs of parental alienation? How do I know if my children are alienated?- case law explained by Vancouver divorce lawyer

Here are some factors that may indicate parental alienation (as per J.C.W. v. J.K.R.W., 2014 BCSC 488 and L.D.K. v. M.A.K., 2015 BCSC 226):

  1. Are there any biological factors such as parents’ mental health issues? Are there any inherited predisposition of the child towards emotional and mental health issues?
  2. Does your ex assert control over your children to your detriment?
  3. Are there conflict between you and your ex? How is the conflict perceived by your child(ren)? How do they relate to the conflict?
  4. Are there any differences in parenting styles and parenting history? Differences in parenting styles may create conflicts. This conflict may cause parents to become more entrenched in their parenting styles or polarized. They way your children relate to these differences may suggest parental alienation.
  5. Is your ex sharing inappropriate information with your child(ren), such as financial and other details of the litigation?
  6. Have you notice if there is enmeshment? Enmeshment: “a dynamic where the nature of a bond between a parent and child becomes diffuse such that the child may suffer a loss of individual autonomous development.” 
  7. How your transitions handled? have you observed prolonged goodbyes and unnecessary contact with the other (alienating) parent?
  8. Has your ex empowered your children to make substantial choices (depending on child’s age) such as spending time with you?
  9. Are there strong sibling relationship between your children?
  10. How do your children relate to you? Keep a diary. Consider whether your children remain distant from you although they are spending more time with you.
  11. See if there has been any limitation of contact/interference of communication between you and your child(ren)
  12. Is your ex withholding medical, academic or other important information from you?
  13. Is your ex creating conflicts and arguments about your children in their presence?
  14. Does your ex fosters in the child’s belief that you are unnecessary?
  15. Does your ex believe that your children’s rejection of you is justified?

If some of these factors are present in your case, contact a divorce lawyer as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to reverse the psychological impact of parental alienation.

What do I do if my children are showing signs of parental alienation? Take immediate action, says our Vancouver divorce lawyer

To prove parental alienation in court, you will need an expert report such as a psychologist section 211 report (See Williamson v. Williamson2016 BCCA 87 (CanLII), paras 39 – 49).  Section 211 reports can assist the court by providing:

  1. objective and neutral opinion evidence about whether the child is alienated from one parent,
  2. recommendations to address the alienation that are in the best interests of the alienated child(ren).

In L.D.K. v. M.A.K., 2015 BCSC 226 and J.C.W. v. J.K.R.W., 2014 BCSC 488, two leading alienation cases in BC, the s. 211 assessors interviewed both parents, the children (the children were 11, 13, 15, and 17 years of age), and the new partners of the parents. Where appropriate, the assessors observed the children in the parents’ homes. This process enabled both assessors to make recommendations designed to promote the children’s long-term best interest.

To get the psychologist section 211 report prepared, you generally need to get a court order. The threshold for the court to order s. 211 report is low. Make sure you get this done ASAP because often the experts have a long wait-list (i.e. could be between 6 months to a year).

As a divorce lawyer commonly dealing with parental alienation cases, my advise is to take immediate actions. If you see signs of alienation, be proactive and place measures to prevent alienation. If you your children have been alienated, deal with it ASAP. I cannot emphasize enough: YOU MUST TAKE ACTION. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to reverse the psychological impact of parental alienation and more intrusive measures may be needed (such as reunification therapy or pulling the child out of the home of the alienating parent). Keep in mind the journey will be difficult and often an emotional roller coaster. However, the end result is probably worth the journey.

If you are dealing with parental alienation give us a call, our Vancouver Divorce Lawyer and Family Lawyers can help you make the right decision and to move forward.