Parental Alienation Legal Action

You might be considering commencing a parental alienation legal action against your child’s other parent because that other parent is trying to alienate your kids from you.

Parental alienation syndrome is a serious problem if it is happening to you and your kids. The phenomenon is when one parent, after divorce or separation, emotionally manipulates their kids, either consciously or unconsciously, in an effort to turn the kids against the other parent. This tends to be done in a systematic way, amounting to a campaign by one parent against the other while the children are caught in the crossfire.

The signs of parental alienation are many. Those signs include your child refusing to spend time with you for no seemingly valid reason, or your child suddenly expressing hatred towards you or fear of you, again for no reason. Often the children will parrot or say out loud what is being said to them by the other parent. 

At other times, the emotional manipulation is more subversive, as in, the child might all of a sudden express distaste for the food you prepare for them, or they are being interrupted continuously by the other parent during your parenting time.

There is a lot said about what constitutes parental alienation, however, suffice it to say that if your kids are being exposed to a systematic and consistent narrative that is turning against you for no legitimate reason, then it could be happening. Take a look at the real life examples of parental alienation that we’ve come across.

Fighting parental alienation - a challenging road ahead

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

Fighting parental alienation is not easy. If you are considering commencing a parental alienation legal action, you will want to start by consulting with a parental alienation lawyer who is familiar with and experienced in proving parental alienation syndrome in court. 

Although, as family law lawyers, at Pathway Legal we always try to resolve matters by moving towards an amicable divorce for our clients, this is not always possible. We have seen our share of high-conflict custody battles. What is significant is that the high-conflict custody battles that are the longest, hardest, most difficult, most exhausting, and yes, the most expensive all seem to have the common element of alienation of parental rights by at least one parent against the other.

In fact, our longest case ended up as a parental alienation legal action. It started out when a client met us at the courthouse because they were looking for the best child custody lawyer they could find. Little did we, as family law lawyers or the client know that we would end up working together for more than 10 years! In that particular case, one parent had a significant personality disorder that resulted in narcissistic parental alienation. 

It was a tough and all-consuming matter to deal with, not only for our client but also for us as parental alienation lawyers.

How to counter parental alienation 

In the long-term parental alienation matter we dealt with, our client noticed the signs of parental alienation and first consulted with our family law lawyers. When the signs became more apparent and consistent, we developed a plan regarding how to counter parental alienation. 

Our client first learned how to prove parental alienation. She then built her case methodically and did everything possible to counteract the parental alienation that was occurring, not only by seeking the advice of a parental alienation lawyer, but also seeking advice from other mental health professionals so that she could support the child in a healthy way while waiting for the parental alienation legal action to run its course. 

It took many separate applications and many separate days in court spread apart by months and sometimes years, however, our client suing for parental alienation was ultimately successful.

Judge’s view on parental alienation

In a parental alienation legal action a judge’s view on parental alienation will be very critical. If a parent wants to know how to lose custody, parental alienation will do it. At the same time, in our experience, as parental alienation lawyers, we have noticed that most of the time, judges will give a party a chance to correct their behaviour. Once the parent is advised that parental alienation abuse hurts their child, the court will give that parent a chance to parent in a healthy manner. 

In the long-term case we had, the parent did not correct their behaviour and the parent lost all contact with the child. It was because the parental alienation abuse was so severe that the father lost his entitlement to have a relationship with his child, and despite it all, and because of his narcissistic parental alienation tactics, he never could or would accept responsibility for his actions.

Parental alienation charges

Mother and daughter holding hands walking together

When there are parental alienation charges being levied against one parent by the other, there must be evidence documenting what has been happening. Alleging such behaviour, if not true, can be in and of itself considered parental alienation. 

For example, we am thinking of one case where the father, we will call him Ken, had remarried. The new wife, we will call her Denise, had decided she was going to be the new “Stepmom” to the parties’ 11 (Jackson) and 14-year-old (Isabelle) kids. Denise was supported by Ken who agreed with Denise that the kids had to refer to her as “Mom.” The kids didn’t like it. Jackson and Isabella said they already had a Mom (our client, Michelle). Ken would not listen and would punish the kids if the kids referred to Denise by her name rather than as “Mom.” 

Denise also took it upon herself to discipline Jackson and Isabelle. Denise also went into Jackson’s and Isabelle’s private text messages and read Isabelle’s private journal and then shared what she read with Ken who later scolded Isabelle for what was written in her journal (that she did not like how Denise treated her). 

Without having first had a long-term relationship with these kids, this “stepmom” decided she would take on all the roles and responsibilities of parenting. Jackson and Isabelle resented this a lot and decided they did not like their new “stepmom” very much. Prior to Denise entering the picture, Jackson and Isabelle had a 50/50 parenting schedule between their Dad Ken’s and Mom, Michelle’s homes.

Jackson and Isabelle started wanting to see their Dad a lot less because being with their Dad meant having to hang out with Denise. The kids also complained to their Mom that they did not like Denise, and that their Dad never stood up to Denise or backed them up when there was conflict. They asked Michelle if she would talk to Ken about what they were going through because Ken was not listening to them. 

Michelle tried to talk to Ken about the issue, but Ken would not discuss it with her. Ken refused to believe that Denise was overstepping. Instead, he believed that Michelle was only being critical of Denise because Michelle was jealous of his new wife. Matters spiralled from there.

Rather than listening to his kids, Ken believed that when the kids stopped wanting to see him or spend time with him during his scheduled parenting time, it was because Michelle was engaging in parental alienation against father. In fact, it was because Denise was overstepping her role as a new spouse to Ken and Ken was letting it happen. 

The kids stopped seeing Ken when Denise was around. They started living full time with Michelle. Then Ken filed a parental alienation legal action against Michelle because he would not shake the belief that Michelle was jealous of Denise. However, Ken had no documentation or other evidence to support his claim.

Sadly, it became a high-conflict custody battle. In the end, because of the children’s ages and their views which were presented to the court, Ken did not succeed in proving parental alienation. It would have been much better if he just listened to what his kids were saying. 

The moral to the story is two-fold: Proving parental alienation in court is something that must be documented. Secondly, parents should think twice before dismissing what their kids are saying.

The moral of the story is two-fold:
Proving parental alienation in court is something that must be documented. Secondly, parents should think twice before dismissing what their kids are saying.

Parental alienation in court

Starting a parental alienation legal action is a serious undertaking. Proving parental alienation in court is not easy to do. Make sure you have evidence to back up what you are saying. It takes documentary evidence to prove what is happening, not just a theory or an idea. 

Suing for parental alienation

Before suing for parental alienation in British Columbia (BC) you want to be more than just a little bit convinced that you are being unfairly and wrongly deprived of having a meaningful relationship with your kids due to (mostly) deliberate actions or influence of your child’s other parent. In order for it to be parental alienation it must be a systematic campaign, not just a comment made once or twice. 

Because the BC Family Law Act focuses that parenting arrangements must always be in the best interests of a child, it also recognizes the fundamental importance of a child having a relationship with both parents. If a parent is trying to turn their child against the other parent, that is not in the child’s best interest. 

The end result and goal is that your children will have the opportunity to have a meaningful and healthy relationship with both of you and, if possible, the negative impact of parental alienation abuse is minimized or eliminated. 

Summary of parental alienation legal action

If you think your child is being subjected to parental alienation abuse, and the other parent is systematically denigrating you, you may want to consider commencing a parental alienation legal action. If you do, we suggest you consult with a parental alienation lawyer not only to ensure you have the right documentary evidence to support your claim but to decide if you are going to commence the parental alienation legal action in the BC Supreme Court or the BC Provincial Court.