How to Prove Parental Alienation in Court

Showing you how to prove parental alienation starts with an understanding of the definition of parental alienation. It is when one parent has an ongoing campaign that emotionally manipulates their children into turning against the other parent.

The problem for children is that when they have been exposed to parental alienation abuse, it can have long lasting effects on their future well-being. The consequences of parental alienation for your kids are serious. Also referred to as the alienation of parental affection, make no mistake about it, it is a form of child abuse. 

The BC Family Law Act does not mention parental alienation syndrome.

Because parental alienation abuse is so serious and damaging, you might ask why a parent would ever engage in it. In our experience at Pathway Legal, dealing with BC Family Law and cases of parental alienation syndrome, almost always when we see a case with parental alienation, it is because a parent has a personality disorder. Whether they have a borderline personality disorder, histrionics, or the parent engages in narcissistic parental alienation, the thing that is clear is that there is a personality disorder present. 

Here is the great news: Most parents don’t.

Although there is often a bumpy phase when parents first separate as everyone gets used to the new way of living, once the parties reach an agreement, things manage to smooth out somewhat. For many parents, at least after their initial separation phase, they get on with the job of co parenting after divorce with few hiccups.

Making a mistake and saying the wrong thing does not create parental alienation.

As parents, we are all imperfect, and we sometimes make mistakes. At the same time, we must be careful, always very careful to be respectful about our children’s other parent. Most parents get that. 

Then, there are the others. Sadly, there are parents who are faced with the other parent who is dead set on turning the children against them. The alienating parent has entered a relentless campaign to undermine and destroy their relationship with their children.

They do this in many ways, both consciously and even unconsciously sometimes. Unfortunately, the examples of parental alienation are many. When a parent has a campaign to discredit, malign, disparage, and destroy a child’s relationship with the other parent, that is parental alienation.

Family law parental alienation - it does NOT always take two to tango!

You have heard the expression “It takes two to tango” right? When looking at family law parental alienation, sometimes folks think that the parent being alienated is somehow inviting the situation. When it comes to the alienation of parental affection, it can come from just one parent directed to the other. Unlike the belief that “it takes two to tango,” it is not always the case that both parents are contributing to the situation or that it takes both parents to continue the ongoing conflict. 

Fighting parental alienation:

Mother holding her young son in her arms, attempting to comfort him

If this is happening to your child, you might want to consider fighting parental alienation. Although it is a challenging and complex process, it is something to consider if you want to ensure your child is not exposed to this kind of continued abuse. 

So, for example, if you are seeing signs of parental alienation in your children, you will want to consider commencing a parental alienation legal action. 

You probably already know this but alleging parental alienation is a big deal, so you want to ensure that you have consulted with a parental alienation lawyer before suing for parental alienation. 

The legal consequences of parental alienation are significant and while a judges view on parental alienation syndrome in court will be harsh, you also don’t want to allege this kind of conduct in the other parent lightly. You do not want to make a big deal out of something and end up in a high-conflict custody battle that you could have avoided.

If you have consulted with a parental alienation lawyer, and you are sure your kids are being exposed to parental alienation tactics by the other parent, then you are going to want to know how to prove parental alienation.

How to prove parental alienation in court - document document document!

1. Write it down – all the signs of parental alienation

Man completing document

Write down all the signs of parental alienation. This will be helpful when looking at how to prove parental alienation. This is part of how you ensure you are documenting everything. For example, if your child says something that leads you to believe that they are being exposed to alienating behaviours from the other parent, WRITE it down right away. Have a notebook/Google document or Word document where you have written down absolutely everything that was said. Now, this does not mean that you want to be questioning your child about what goes on in the other household either (because guess what?! That is an alienating behaviour by you against the other parent!), but if something comes out of the mouth of your babe and it looks like evidence of parental alienation, write it down. 

In one case there was parental alienation against the mother, where the father had insisted that the child write down and report back to him everything (and I mean everything) that happened in his mother’s home. The father also bribed the kid by paying him to do all of his homework during the mother’s parenting time so the child would not be doing homework during his parenting time.

Remember, even if you think you will never forget it, write it down anyway, with the date and time your child said it. Parental alienation in court is proved by such written accounts. It is also proven by texts, emails, and other documentation.

2. How to document parental alienation  

You know that old saying that a picture is worth more than 1000 words? Well, it is very true.

Proving parental alienation is often done so with documentary evidence and here are some powerful examples: 

A good parental alienation lawyer will tell you that you can discreetly document what is happening if parental alienation is occurring. Gathering evidence for proving parental alienation is very different than interrogating your child, poking and prodding them at every opportunity, and even getting them to report to you everything that has gone on when in the other parent’s care. 

Video - For example, you may have heard me share this story before, but in one case we had, the father discreetly put his phone on video recording while he picked up his five-year old son from the mother’s home for his parenting time. If we had not seen the video recording, we would not have believed what we saw. 

The mother, who genuinely loved their son (as did the Dad) was sobbing as she was getting the child ready to go. She was telling the child to “Make sure your Dad feeds you enough food,” “Make sure your Dad zips up your jacket,” and “Make sure you stay safe while with your Dad.” What the mother did not see at all was that she was clearly engaging in father parental alienation. 

Photographs - For example, subjecting the child to photographs and examination of every bump and bruise is an example of parental alienation. 

Social media posts - For example, we had one case where a father who had been engaging in parental alienation against the mother, and was warned by the court that the legal consequences of parental alienation were so serious that he must stop immediately if he wanted to continue a relationship with his son. Despite this the father continued to use his campaign of parental alienation utilizing social media posts he knew his son would see. 

Texts - For example, we proved parental alienation in court when we submitted the many texts one parent had sent the child during the other parent’s parenting time. In this case of father parental alienation, the child was continuously interrupted by the mother by way of excessive texts during the father’s parenting time. 

Parental alienation phone calls - For example, the phone can be used as a tool for parental alienation abuse. In one case we had, the alienating parent would phone the child just before bed each night, specifically to disrupt their nighttime routine. They would get the child excited and wound up so the parent who had parenting time could not get the child to settle and to sleep. 

Denying child access to the phone - For example, when a child is not allowed to call or supported to call (if they are young) their other parent while in the other parent’s care. In one case where there was mother parental alienation, the child was told by the father, “When you are in our house, your mother does not exist.” Unfortunately for the child, this is a dramatic demonstration of parental alienation syndrome.

Emails - For example, we had one case where there was parental alienation against the mother and every time the mother advised the Dad of any medical appointments for their child (as she was required to do), the father would use her email as an opportunity to unleash tirades of abuse and insults at her. All of this documentary evidence supported her proving parental alienation in court.

Avoiding parental alienation against father with an agreement - because of the documentation proving parental alienation

In the case above where the mother was sobbing in front of the child, when her child was being picked up by the Dad, we reached a child custody agreement without court with a strategy of how to counter parental alienation by these three things:

  1. We reached an agreement at child custody mediation whereby the mother was required to bring the child to school on school days (unless the child was ill). Before the mediation the mother often kept the child at home, causing him to miss many days of school; 
  2. We arranged that the pickup and drop off of the child would occur at his school, that way we were able to avoid the high conflict custody exchange that was unfolding each and every time the father picked the child up from the mother’s house (the little kid was put in the middle of conflict because he was sad for his crying mother); and 
  3. We substantially increased the father’s parenting time with the child. In that case, the mother believed she was the only suitable parent for the child. Even though the mother hired a law firm known for its work as child custody lawyers for mothers, even her lawyer could see the parental alienation against father that was going on.

3. Proving parental alienation in court - gather and prepare testimony

If you are a parent experiencing the alienation of parental affection because of the other parent, what you say can be important. Sometimes parents don’t realize this but you can prove parental alienation by telling the court what you have experienced. 

You may have friends or family members who have also witnessed the parental alienation abuse that has been happening. A judge's view on parental alienation and whether or not it has occurred can come from credible witnesses, including you, your friends and close family members.

4. Consult with a parental alienation lawyer in BC

A parental alienation lawyer will have the necessary experience and understanding of this relatively complex area of the law. Suing for parental alienation should not be done lightly. 

In one case we had, ironically it seems, the father was accusing the mother of parental alienation against father. He accused the mother of maternal gatekeeping, that is, he accused her of limiting his role in the child’s life because of her controlling nature. In this case, the ironic part is that the father had a narcissistic personality disorder and could not at all understand why his ongoing and relentless campaign to denigrate and malign the mother to the child was hurting their child. 

Because the parties had already been involved in a high-conflict custody battle, the mother did not relish the idea of returning to the courtroom. However, in this case, the parental alienation abuse was so severe, that she had no choice. 

Ultimately the judges view on parental alienation prevailed and the child was protected from further psychological damage. In this case the mother sought the advice of a parental alienation lawyer because she wanted to ensure that she would know how to prove parental alienation and how to document parental alienation in a way that the court would understand her legitimate concerns.

5. Engage other professionals

The BC Family Law Act requires that unless it is inappropriate to do so, that a child’s views must be taken into account.

If a child’s view shows signs of parental alienation, a professional will likely be able to assist with documenting and proving it. 

There is a difference between parental alienation abuse and estrangement. Parental alienation is when a child has been exposed to a campaign by a parent to turn them against the other parent. Estrangement is when the child does not wish to spend time with one parent because that parent is not meeting the child’s needs (for example, they are a parent who disrespects their child, is too strict, or is mean).

Summary of how to prove parental alienation

If you are fighting parental alienation and want to discover how to prove parental alienation it's important that you consult with a parental alienation lawyer at Pathway Legal.