Study suggests abusive parents use parental alienation to ‘win’ children disputes

A new study suggests that estranged fathers with an alleged or proven history of domestic abuse can use parental alienation claims to discredit mothers and gain parenting time with their children.

While there is no single definition of parental alienation, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (‘Cafcass’) recognise it as ‘when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.’

The study, conducted by Dr Adrienne Barnett, a researcher at Brunel University London, examined all 40 reported and published private family law judgments in England and Wales, from 2000 to 2019, in which parental alienation was raised. This case law revealed a high incidence of domestic abuse perpetrated by parents (principally fathers) who were claiming that the resident parents (principally mothers) had alienated the children against them, raising questions about the purpose of parental alienation.

The study says that recently a parental alienation ‘industry’ appears to have amassed, comprising experts, therapists and lawyers, advocating transfers of children’s care from ‘alienating’ mothers to non-resident fathers, as well as parental alienation therapy for children and parents.

Dr Barnett commented:

“Playing the parental alienation card is proving more powerful than any other in silencing the voices of women and children resisting contact with abusive men. Parental alienation is not an equal counterpart to domestic abuse, it is a means of obscuring domestic abuse, and should be recognised as such.”

Parental alienation can be a very complex issue. If you believe that the other parent is alienating your child against you, or if you are being accused of alienating your child against them, then we would strongly suggest that you seek the advice of an expert family lawyer. Family Law Cafe can help you find that advice. To book a free initial consultation with us click the green button at the top of this page and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

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