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How to spot alienating behaviour.

Often parental alienation can feel like it's completely out of the blue however sometimes there are ways to recognise behaviours that indicate alienation may take place.

Hostile and alienating behaviours are sadly a frequent occurrence when parents separate and can sometimes get very vicious when going through family court proceedings. Abhorrent tactics such as false allegations of abuse are becoming part of the alienating parent's playbook with the family court system doing very little to discourage it, let alone impose the punishments it deserves.

With the family law industry seemingly more concerned in their profits it's up to target parents to equip themselves with as much knowledge as possible. The family law industry is reliant on their knowledge and the knowledge gap between qualified legal professionals and the "average" alienated parent, so that they can continue to milk the cash cow of family court.

Thankfully this knowledge gap is getting smaller and smaller thanks to PAPA, as we continue to provide our free support community and resources to help empower every alienated parent to take control of their own destiny, particularly when navigating family court.

What is alienating behaviour?

Alienating behaviour is severely negative behaviour that's often exhibited by one parent in order to undermine a child's relationship with the other parent. This can lead to a child being resistant to contact and being hostile towards the other parent without any apparent justification.

It's important to note that a child will not naturally reject a loving parent so if this is happening then it's almost certain that they have been emotionally abused by the alienating parent. Sometimes alienating parents are very obvious with their abuse but often it can be covert and more subtle, sometimes increasing slowly over time. Some examples of alienating behaviours include:

  • attempting to limit contact between you and your child;

  • a tendency to badmouth or belittle you in front of your child;

  • attempting to make the child feel guilty for wanting to spend time with you;

  • a tendency to deal with medical/educational issues of the child alone and not bring them to your attention;

  • forbidding discussions about you in their household;

  • insistence on having 'their time' even if they are working and won't be spending time with the child themselves;

  • sharing any disagreements you have with them with the child but only sharing their side of the story;

  • picking up on a perceived weakness in your parenting, your relationship with your child or your home situation and exaggerating its significance to the child or other agencies (ie. their school);

  • creating the impression that you dislike or don't love your child or painting the picture that you've moved on to a new life.

The above are just some examples of alienating behaviours that can manifest over time from an alienating parent. It's important to guard you and your child against these types of attack as best as possible but of course it is incredibly difficult.

Often if a child is being abused by a parent's alienating behaviours then there will be some noticeable signs. Examples of behaviours exhibited by a child could include:

  • refusing to see you or trying to limit contact;

  • sudden rejection of previously loved family members on your side of the family;

  • change in their behaviour such as ignoring your authority and refusing to comply with your rules;

  • becoming withdrawn and reluctant to talk to you;

  • asking you not to attend events such as their football match or dance show;

  • repeating or making allegations against you which have potentially come from the other parent;

  • having knowledge of financial issues or court proceedings indicating that they may be involved in adult discussions.

It can be extremely difficult to deal with a child's rejection, particularly when it's orchestrated by the other parent so it's important to look out for the above behaviours to try to minimise the damage as best as possible.

How to manage alienating behaviours

After doing a lot of reading into Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), I am certain that alienating behaviours and narcissism go hand in hand.

If there are no safeguarding issues then one of the sole motivators for parental alienation is a want or need for control over the child and the other parent. This is one of the most common symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder; a want or need for control, regardless of how that affects anyone else (in this case, the child and target parent).

I don't have any data to confirm this link as NPD is so rarely diagnosed, usually because the person afflicted sees nothing wrong with their behaviour.

What I can advise though, and what has been very helpful for is to familiarise myself with NPD and how to deal with it as these are tools that will help you in understanding the other parents behaviour. Even if the alienating parent does not have NPD, they are likely to be displaying some narcissistic behaviours.

It's important to make it your priority to reduce conflict to a minimum and you can do this by setting boundaries for yourself.

This should include only communicating with the alienating parent on matters regarding the child and refusing to engage in any conversations that aren't in your child's interests. If the alienating parent tries to push your buttons or tries to start a confrontation then you need to disengage completely.

In regards to your child, it's important to not talk about their other parent in a negative way regardless of how they've behaved or what they've said, you do not want your child to feel stuck in the middle. Instead, focus your attention on reassuring your child and making the time you have together as special as possible so that you can reinforce your undeniable bond.

I will be writing a more in depth article on how to deal with narcissistic co parents and high conflict situations but for now please refer to the above as a basic guide to refer to as it's important to stay centred and child-focused in these situations.

I'm experiencing these behaviours, what's next?

Sometimes it's not possible or it's too late to counteract or identify alienating behaviour. If these behaviours are left unaddressed this difficult behaviour can escalate and lead to a breakdown of the relationship between the child and the alienated parent altogether.

For parents who believe they are at risk of being subjected to these behaviours or are already experiencing them, there are a number of practical steps you can take.

A starting point may be to speak to your ex-partner to try and resolve the situation however this is often very difficult, particularly in high conflict situations where lines of communication are no longer open.

A referral can be made to meditation and with the benefit of an independent third party you may be able to reach an agreement regarding the time the child spends with you both.

Attempting to resolve the matter without the intervention of the court may help to reduce the conflict and animosity between both parents as well as ensuring the child is put under less stress.

If it is not possible to agree the arrangements directly, then it may be necessary to make an application to court for a Child Arrangements Order. The benefit of obtaining an Order is that if there is any breakdown in contact, the Order can be enforced and it can also include recordings, such as, to confirm that the child should not be spoken to about adult issues, or the other parent should not be denigrated in the presence of the child.

During the proceedings it may be directed that a report is obtained from CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) in relation to who the child should live with and if the child should be able to live with both parents, who they should spend time with and to report on any harm that may be caused by alleged hostile or alienating behaviours.

In some cases where the parental alienation or hostile behaviour is alleged to be causing the child emotional harm and this is disputed by the other parent, it may be necessary to conduct a Finding of Fact hearing.  This is an interim hearing to determine which parent is telling the truth, on the balance of probabilities. Any findings made will then be used to inform the factual matrix used by CAFCASS to make recommendations to the Court.

If you're not already aware of CAFCASS then it's important to note that there is a long list of complaints with their level of service, with reports of poor application of policy as well as conflicts of interest when conducting their work.

Despite this, it's important for you to familiarise yourselves with them so that you have the best information possible when dealing with them. You can find out more on their guidance for alienating behaviours here.

Ultimately, if you're put in the undesirable position of having to fight for your children then it's important to understand that the family law industry is set up to monetise your pain. With this in mind it's important you go into the process with the mindset of taking on the responsibility yourself and equipping yourself with the best knowledge possible and by avoiding the pitfalls of solicitors. At PAPA we can help with that.

What next?

Firstly, time is of the essence so if you're noticing alienating behaviours then you need to act immediately to reduce the impact. If you're already being alienated then you need to start the mediation and/or court proceedings immediately.

It can be daunting but at PAPA we aim to provide you the tools you need to self represent and to regain meaningful contact with your children. We have helped hundreds of parents through the process.

It's important to avoid using a solicitor unless you have a legal case against you because they will often serve to slow down proceedings and cost you a lot more money in the process. At PAPA our priority is the same as yours; to reunite you with your child as soon as possible, the same can't always be said for solicitors who benefit more and more financially the longer it takes to resolve a case.

In order to get the best support possible we recommend you become a member of PAPA here on our website to take advantage of our community forum as well as our free legal resources, which will be available soon. It's completely free to join and always will be.

We also have a highly active Facebook support group which includes multiple chat rooms that ensure support is available around the clock. You can join our Facebook support group here.

PAPA members will also be able to take advantage of free legal advice in the coming months and beyond.

Thank you for reading and I hope this article helps you in some way. Please remember you are not alone and PAPA is here to help support you and your children towards a better future,

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you have worded this to perfection & is exactly my situation & lots more people i am sure


Marc R.
Marc R.
Jan 09

The link to the Facebook support group is non-functioning :-)

thanks for all this information. It’s really helpful!

cheers from Germany!

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