Everything You Need to Know about Parental Alienation

Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a set of behaviours systematically imposed on a child by one parent with the intent to turn that child against the other parent. This article will discuss parental alienation, how to spot it in your own family, and what you can do if you’re experiencing this devastating form of child abuse.

Parental Alienation

What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is a type of child abuse that occurs when one parent tries to turn the children against the other parent. It can happen after separation or divorce, and it’s often difficult to detect because it may not be as visible as physical abuse.

In 1985, Dr. Richard A Gardner, a Clinical Psychologist, first described PAS, who identified and defined the behaviours he termed “Parental Alienation Syndrome.”

All parties agree that the characteristics of this syndrome are present in some children alienated from one parent because of abusive manipulation and brainwashing from another parent. However, they debate the cause and who is responsible.

What are the first signs of parental alienation?

The first sign of parental alienation is the child’s sudden shift in loyalty to one parent and blaming or rejecting the other. This rejection can be emotional, physical, verbal, and even behavioural.

A second early sign may be a change in grades as the alienated parent becomes less involved with school activities. The third standard indicator includes unexplained changes in behaviour, such as withdrawal from friends and family members.

What is the difference between parental alienation and realistic estrangement?

There is a difference between parental alienation and realistic estrangement. Realistic estrangement occurs when a parent rationally believes the other parent is not good enough for his or her children.

Parental alienation occurs when a parent emotionally hijacks the child and turns against the other parent. Realistic estrangement is based on facts that a parent can back up with evidence. Parental alienation occurs when no facts or proof support one’s claims about the other parent.

Is alienating a child illegal?

The answer is YES; it is illegal to alienate a child against another parent. You may have divorced, but as parents, both of you have a similar right to your child. You just can’t neglect it and stop another parent from being a part of your child’s life.

What can legally be done about parental alienation?

As a legal step, there is no other option without going to court. An expert child custody lawyer can consult far better on this issue. However, a court may grant any of the below four things:

  • Recover full custody of the parent of the alienated child from the alienating parent
  • Order supervised visitation (supervised by a third-party therapist/mediator)
  • Deny parental access to the alienating parent and/or…
  • Reunification therapy – the court may order to arrange reunification therapy for both parents and child.

How do you know if your ex is turning your child against you?

It’s not always easy to know if your child is being turned against you.  Sometimes it can be as simple as an offhand comment or a change in their routine- but there are also more subtle signs that should raise alarm bells for parents.

We’ve compiled this list of 11 symptoms of parental alienation that indicate your ex is turning your child against you.

  • Your child’s eyes fill with anger and tears when they talk about their other parent or mention them in conversation. This is the most obvious sign that your ex may be turning your child against you, but also one of the hardest to detect because it can involve a sensitive subject matter such as divorce or custody battles.
  • Your child’s grades have taken a sudden nosedive. This may be due to a lack of motivation or because they’re focusing on something you don’t know about that is taking up their time and attention.
  • There are noticeable changes in how your child acts with you, such as being more distant and staying away from you for longer periods.
  • Your child is suddenly hostile or aggressive towards you, and it’s not something they’ve shown before in your interactions with them. When a parent starts turning their children against the other spouse, one telltale sign may be that the kids start being more combative and irritable around both parents, especially the ones they don’t see as often.
  • Your child suddenly refuses to spend time with you or do things that were once an important part of their routine, such as attending church or seeing friends. This could be a sign your ex is telling them not to talk to you so much and letting them know that it’s okay because they don’t like you anyway.
  • Your child is more excited about the other parent’s visits than yours or talks about them with more enthusiasm and excitement than they do for your visit. This may be because the ex has been telling them their time with him/her was better spent than it would have been otherwise, and now they’re starting to believe it.
  • Your child starts to act differently when you try and discipline them, such as being more defiant or disrespectful than they would be otherwise. Another sign that your ex may be turning your child against you is if the child has started doing things like lying about where they were with their other parent or not following an agreement that was previously a part of their routine.
  • Your child starts to do things like wet the bed, have nightmares or trouble sleeping at night, exhibit more anxiety than they used to and/or be clingy when you’re not around. These are all signs that your ex may be turning your child against you because he/she is worried they won’t have your attention or presence in their life.
  • Your child is suddenly not interested in doing things with you, even though it’s something he/she has always enjoyed before and would turn down opportunities to do them elsewhere. This could be because the other parent now holds more of their time, but sometimes children just need a break from their parents.
  • Your child starts to act more mature and grown-up than they used to or suddenly seems like an expert in a subject you don’t know much about. This may be because they’re trying to show off how smart and “grown-up” they are to the other parent, who rewards them with praise and attention.
  • Your child asks for expensive gifts or favors that are much more than they would usually want, and these things aren’t something you’ve already bought in the past. This may be because your ex is telling them they deserve it now because of how “good” he/she has been with them lately.

In general, when you start to notice any of these changes in your child’s behaviour or personality, the best thing you can do is sit down with them and have a conversation.

Explain that they may be confused about their relationship with both parents because they’re changing so much and growing up fast. Let them know it’s okay to feel that way, and always be honest with them.

If you still suspect your ex is turning your child against you after having this conversation, it may be time to consult a family law attorney for advice on how to proceed or take legal action.

You can also try parenting coaching if all else fails. The key is not to get caught up in the past and what might have happened but to focus on how you can move forward with them.

How do you fight parental alienation?

You can’t just try to fight parental alienation. You need to maintain a loving relationship with your children while also ensuring that you provide them with everything they need.

You may also talk with another parent to inform him/her what you have noticed. If nothing works, you should consult with a psychologist, and as a final step, you can even go to court.

If you want to avoid parental alienation, make sure that your children are the priority in your life and ensure they have everything necessary for their well-being. While it may not be easy at first, try to maintain a loving relationship with the other parent, so there’s no fighting about who gets what time with them.

You will need more than just an occasional visit: if possible, turn every other weekend into two consecutive days of quality time rather than one day on Saturday and Sunday–that way, both parents can spend some uninterrupted hours together with their kids!

You should also talk to another parent and see what he or she has noticed about how things are going between you and your ex.

If nothing works, you should consult with a psychologist. And as the final step, if nothing works and your children are still being alienated from one parent by the other, then ask for help in court. Instead of fighting, you should focus on preventing parental alienation.

Is it hard to prove parent alienation?

Parental alienation is a complex syndrome which can be difficult to diagnose. The difficulty in diagnosis leads to an increased risk of parental abduction and false allegations against one parent by the other.

Parental alienators often have extensive knowledge about child psychology and may obscure their actions with plausible deniability- namely “shared parenting“.

What can I do if I’m falsely accused of parental alienation?

If you are falsely accused of parental alienation, the first thing to do is contact an attorney. There have been instances where someone’s child was taken away because they were wrongly labelled as a “Parental Alienator”.

Here in Maine, we say that there must be substantial evidence for taking children away, and it has to outweigh any negative effects on the child. If you have been falsely accused of parental alienation, contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible to help defend yourself against these allegations and protect your right to parent your children.

Can I sue someone for parental alienation?

Yes! If you have been a victim of parental alienation, you may have grounds for suing your ex-spouse or the person who alienated your child from you.

If you are unsure about the basis for your legal rights in this situation, it would be worth consulting an attorney so that he/she can investigate the various avenues available to you.

To explore the possibility of a lawsuit, you need to have first-hand knowledge that your former spouse or a third party (such as a friend, family member, etc.) is actually responsible for interfering with your relationship between yourself and your child/ren.

Do kids ever recover from parental alienation?

Yes, they can recover from parental alienation. According to Family & Divorce lawyer’s experiences, some children recover from PAS even as younger. This usually happens when it becomes clear that continuing alienation of a parent favours the other parent who had left in the divorce and not the favoured parent. Sometimes, it may need long time therapies.

It’s a myth about parental alienation that it is not recoverable. But, it can be done by following the proper steps. Treatment and therapies for children with parental alienation can be provided by a PAS expert or under Court supervision.

This treatment may also include medications in some cases. In most cases of parental alienation, the alienating parent prefers this to happen outside the court system.


That’s all about parental alienation from us today. If you have serious issues like withholding your child from you, we always suggest you consult with your attorney.

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