When parents separate it is important that the children continue to have a good relationship with both parents.
It’s a challenging time for everyone involved, particularly if a divorce has been acrimonious or if there are issues over the child arrangements.
Sometimes one parent tries to turn their children against the other intentionally and sometimes they are just so negative about the other parent it impacts on the child’s opinion of the other parent.
Known as parental alienation, there is growing awareness about the issue in the Family Courts and it’s estimated to occur in 11-15% of divorce cases. There are varying degrees but at the extreme end it involves trying to cut off contact with the other parent.
The emotional impact on children who find themselves in this position is extremely detrimental to their well-being.
So, what can you do if you think your ex is turning your child against you?
Possible signs of parental alienation
The whole issue is very complex because children experiencing a huge life change such as a divorce may well be feeling very angry and upset, and end up lashing out at you. It doesn’t necessarily mean your ex is trying to turn them against you.
Possible signs may include:
- Your ex-partner reduces your parenting time without good reason
- Your children make excuses about why they don’t want to visit
- Only receiving limited information about your children
- Your child may be reluctant to show you affection
- Your child’s behaviour towards you is different when the other parent is present
It will be heart-breaking to feel that you are losing your children.
Supporting children through a divorce
When looking at this issue, it’s helpful to think about the ways you can best support your children through a divorce. It’s widely agreed that children are far better off maintaining a positive and healthy relationship with both parents.
It can be a confusing and unhappy time for everyone and children can even blame themselves for the break-up.
The NSPCC offers the following advice for helping children deal with divorce:
- Remind them that they are loved by both parents.
- Be honest when talking about it but keep in mind the child’s age and understanding.
- Avoid blame – don’t share any negative feelings the adults have about each other.
- Keep up routines such as going to school and specific meal times.
- Let them know they can talk about their feelings with you – explain that it’s okay to be sad, confused or angry.
- Listen more than you speak – answering questions will help them to open up.
Why legal help is needed quickly
- The can children end up in the middle of conflict between their parents being used as weapons.
- If one parent is prevented from seeing the children for a period of time this can become the new “normal” and it can become more difficult to reinstate contact arrangements the more time that passes
- The parent being denied contact with their children will feel frustrated but if they tackle it on their own the other parent may well make allegations of harassment or abuse which they may use to help justify their decision to reduce or stop contact.
Cases of this kind can be extremely complex, and our solicitors at Harrogate Family Law are experienced in dealing with all the issues, resolving disputes and supporting parents. It is vitally important to take the right approach from the outset in issues over the care of your children. We recommend you take advice as soon as possible to obtain guidance to avoid making the situation worse.
Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers 2018 (York, Hull and surrounds region) and the Legal 500 2017 (Leeds/West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire region).
He is also the only Resolution accredited specialist solicitor in Harrogate for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.
This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.