There is no quick or easy answer to this. It is a subtle, behind closed doors type of abuse that happens to a child and hard to prove. You know when it's happening because of how your child starts to behave. They may still be allowed to come but are turned into a weapon of hatred. Or as in many cases, you can't see them at all - they refuse to come. Or the Mother claims they refuse to come and the child is effectively a prisoner. In some ways it is easier to get a court result if they have been witheld completely/refuse to come. Alienators play the system - they can say - I'm still allowing contact, what's he complaining about? While micromanaging the child and controlling how they behave in your home. Disrupting the time together with the child as a conduit for hostility. This article seeks to try and deal with coping with it step by step, based on advice from professionals and the personal experiences of Dads.

So you have a child who has previously been a normal, happy loving child. You may have been having a great relationship since separation and divorce. It may just start out of the blue when you a) get engaged or married b) move house or c) the child seems too happy at your house. Or when the ex meets a new man and wants a full time family and you out of the picture. This article is not going to go into the depths of what makes someone an alienator - there are plenty of books by psychologists on that. But more about - how the heck to cope with this - the range of emotions, the powerlessness and seeing your child go through hell and not being able to help them.

First tip is - NEVER blame the child. Don't react. You're being set up by the alienating parent to fall out with your child and have the child reject you. They are struggling to keep loyalty to both parents with the alienating parent filling their head with negativity (and worse) about you. So the moment you react with anger or even mild reprimands - you become the person the alienating person says you are - bad, uncaring etc etc. If your child is displaying signs of alienation then normal parenting isn't possible. The child is being used to control you. Because the alieanating parent doesn't want you to be a happy successful parent. So the first thing is

Never react.

Expect a bombshell the minute your child arrives. Expect accusations from the child. Expect the child to be hostile. Expect the child to suddenly say they don't want to go on holiday with you and want to do xyz instead. They are parroting. Accept that the child has been terrorised, bullied or threatened into repeating what they've been told to say/parroting or they would not do it. Accept that the child cannot tell you what they really want. Because either they don't even know any more or they are far too scared that anything they tell you may get back to the alienating parent and they will be punished. Even more nuanced in all this is the child may be enmeshed and in collusion with the other parent about how to "get back at bad Dad". That is not a real child - that is a projection.

And this is where the family court system, as it stands, is not good for alienated children. Any arguments or evidence you use in a family court are seen by the other parent - who may punish the child because a) you've mentioned how happy they are at your house b) they told you xyz. You need to tread very very carefully in what to say when applying to court. Difficult. If it is too low key and general the court doesn't get that something serious is going on. If it expresses what the Mother is doing (you may have email evidence of some of it), it sounds as if you are derogating the Mother - and Cafcass can then put a label on the situation of "conflict between parents". That happens a lot. And their take on that? The child is in the middle of conflict so better they just stay with one parent and indirect contact with the other. Boom. Alienator achieves what they set out to achieve. Child by then is quite damaged, possibly feeling guilty, grieving the loss of a parent and having to hide it. Struggling with their own identity and who they are - because they are part of you and have been part of you - bonded - and that part has been cut off. So careful wording, hint at things rather than outright accusations of parental alienation. But still careful wording as if you express concern at child's changed behaviour and feel child is being turned against you - the other side can jump on that and say - it's because of what he's doing. So evidence is always key. If you can say - child was witheld for a month and returned very hostile towards everything to do with you, your home, your family - but child returned to normal after a few days - but on every occasion since child returns hostile and then returns to normal within a few days - that links the hostility with an event - child being witheld or in the Mother's care.

When talking about how horrific it is for a Dad to cope with parental alienation, a child who has been turned against you and the grief - the way to start thinking is from the point of view of the child - that helps you cope and helps you help them.

Assuming you are still getting some contact (and if you are it will no doubt be minimised to very short times infrequently because then the alienator can keep their hold) then remember these few things.


1) Never react. Expect bombshells. Stay calm - listen - don't say anything. Or just say - thank you for letting me know I'll have a think about that. Because what the bombshell usually is, is wanting a reaction out of you and to put you on the spot to answer something that is not really answerable. The alienating parent wants you to react and say "what the xxxx! How can you say that to me - your Mother has told you to say that". Just don't do it. Because that child will be questioned in detail on return and everything you do and say will go back. You will then get accused of being aggressive, abusive etc. That is how alienators work. They try to break the bond, use the child as a weapon to attack you, tell the child you are unsafe, reinforce to the child that you are unsafe because you reacted - and tell Cafcass you are aggressive and the child is scared of you. So - don't react. Expect bombshells.

The saddest bit about this is that at this time you can not have normal open interaction with your own child and are having to use strategy. But see it as a tough part of parenting with love. The benefit of it is - that usually that moment passes - the child has done their job - parroted their bit, passed on the message. The fact that you haven't responded to it means they then automatically start being themselves again - they are just following instructions. They carried out the instructions - now what's on TV. It can be worse than this with severely alienated children who just remain hostile and rude. But don't react. Be gentle - try to distract them. If you don't react the dialogue can't accelerate into a stand off. This goes against any normal parenting. If a child is rude you'd usually say something like - don't talk to me like that, or go to your room and have time out. Unfortunately this just makes them worse and more hostile towards you and you become everything the alienating parent says you are - to them. Either say nothing (let it pass) and carry on doing normal things around the house (no audience), or if you have to say something - say something like

"I know you're struggling right now, are you coping ok?" That shows them you understand. Don't expect an answer. But it's been said and heard. Then - distraction - getting on with something as if nothing has happened. It's hard work. The longer your child is there the more it will wear off - sometimes it can take 24 hours - sometimes a week. And that is why it is crucial to have as much time as possible with the child - so they have an escape from the toxic environment and can return to normality - so the alienation doesn't take hold. So they can develop coping strategies of their own and feel safe somewhere.

2) Never get angry. Don't feel angry with the child - they will pick that up. It's normal to feel angry if you're being called names and rubbished to your face. Again expect this. And prepare. Remember that the child is a conduit at this point - like a possessed child who is spouting the demon's words. It's horrific.

Those two main things. Don't react. Don't get angry. There are various books to help with the day to day management of a "semi" alienated child. There is a list of books on the forum. So "semi" alienated. Because alienated is when they have "split" and fully rejected you and refusing to come. The alienator has managed to do their job. The child's loyalties have been split to good parent and bad parent. The alienator manages to do their job by means of two things.

1) Having the opportunity to keep derogating and brainwashing by having the child there most of the time and not allowing the child long enough with you for it to wear off.
2) By getting you to react which helps the child to reject you. Don't react.

So the child "semi alienated" is pushing for rejection as well. Because they're suffering mentally, emotionally, psychologically. They can't please both parents. If they're loyal to one parent the other rejects or punishes them - or worse. Only alienated children really know the degrees of mental (and sometimes physical) terrorising that goes on to make them do what they are told. The child is pushing for rejection - don't get angry. Don't react. In two days time they may suddenly just be that normal happy child again and have forgotten that ever happened - like a bad dream. Before returning to the other parent they may change again. Look scared or suddenly become negative.

These are all just tips for coping day to day - but there needs to be a solution. What is the solution? That is the difficulty with parental alienation. Raising awareness. But Court is the only real solution currently for Dads to have SIGNIFICANT and regular contact with the child to try and keep showing them love and normality. The court process is slow, the alienator manipulates the court processes - to cause delay, to keep the children away from you longer - to try and break the bond and to try and achieve loyalty only to them. The alienator manipulates Cafcass - they may be very good in court - as the concerned anxious Mother who desperately tries to get the children to go to their Dad's but they are scared of him or they don't like xyz about the house etc.

A good Cafcass officer should see through some of this. But some alienators are master manipulators. It takes a good psychologist.

So the court route is

1) As much time as possible
2) Psychologists reports if orders are still not being followed. With a view to change of residence.

The problem is - it can be very expensive. Most Dads can't afford £50,000 to £60,000 for a top psychologist and specialist barrister in Parental Alienation. It is not impossible to have results as a litigant in person. There are good Judges. There are good Cafcass officers. But the court system is slow, evidence can't be seen until a final hearing and meanwhile the children are suffering and being alienated. And then your ex just keeps breaching the order. But that is when there is a chance of having residency transferred.

Is a transfer of residency the solution? Well it helps. The ex can't prevent contact. But they can still brainwash and alienate and they can still say the child refuses to come back. The only hope there is that the child feels more secure living with you and can talk to you more and has a place of safety to stay. And may tell someone what is going on. So you can get help for them.

Get as much advice as you can - read books. But the court system is not friendly towards alienation cases - until you get to a final hearing. It's not even advisable to say that the other parent is alienating (because that is what alienators themselves say!). Alienators tend to project - and accuse you of what they are doing. Tips given to Dads have been - don't use the words parental alienation. Skirt round it. "My child appears to have been turned against me". "My child returned from a four week absence and was like a stranger - his/her behaviour was unnatural and quite alien". Hint at it. Let them pick up the red flags.

Courts are used to Mothers making allegations. Whether real or just vindictive. But if a Father does it - it's a big no no. It's seen as fairly normal for Mothers to be hostile to the other parent, but if a Father does - he's a bad, dangerous parent.

Successful parents stay calm and keep going through the process. So a start is - a good court order. Ensuring you have longer periods with your child. Keep communication with the ex formal and minimal and only about child arrangements. Focus on your life in your own home with the child and don't ask about what happens in the other home. But say they can talk to you about anything. Casually let them know that there are people in schools who children can talk to if they ever have a problem and it's private. But an alienated child will probably be too scared to tell anyone anything. They no longer trust any adults or systems to protect them. They see the alienating parent winning over everyone and have to protect themselves.

These views are based on experiences and advice given to individual Dads - personal experiences. What are the solutions? At present the situation is not good. Some people say transfer of residency (which is hard to achieve and can take a long time and during that time the child is being damaged). Some people say - family reunification therapy - but an alienating ex may either refuse or just play along when there and then use information gleaned against you. Alienating exes have a habit of manipulating mediation as well. Anything discussed they will store up to use as a weapon later or prevent anything you say you would like. There are many complaints that the court "has no teeth". Things drag on and nobody knows what to do so half hearted advice and orders are made. But there are some good Judges who have had specific training in parental alienation. A Judge also has to take strong account of expert evidence (such as a psychologists report).

Are all alienators the same? Their strategies and behaviours all seem to be the same. They may not all be doing it for the same reason. Psychologists say it can be a personality order, an attachment disorder (which is why psychologist reports are helpful in court). For some it is pure hatred and vindictiveness towards the other parent - but that doesn't explain why they would go so far as to damage, frighten and hurt their own child. That may be lack of insight, selfishness - but yes probably something not quite right. Normal people don't alienate children. They love them and care for them and allow them to love other family members.

But there are "reformed" alienators (an article reproduced on here "Interview with an Alienator" who say - well it was quite easy to achieve because children are easily bought. Treats, nice things to tempt them instead of seeing Dad.

The view of the writer is - it is achieved by coercive control, manipulation of an innocent growing mind, and a kind of extreme "nice guy nasty guy" approach. An extreme form of "sanctions and rewards" which are usually used to achieve good behaviour. But the sanctions and rewards are inappropriate. Throwing away things Dad has given them as a sanction not to accept gifts from Dad. Stopping them seeing Dad as a punishment for following Dad's house rules. Rewarding them for rejecting Dad by giving them treats and presents and gushing compliments - grooming basically. There is also a kind of "give me sympathy I need you" approach to the child. Mum is suffering and it's all Dad's fault. Mum needs child more. That is fairly minor compared to the derogation and erasing of memories. But it's all head messing for a child. So they need calm normality at your house.

Many of us are still going through this and not out of the other end yet. Feel free to add your own tips and suggestions to others in the comments. At present the family court system is the only way to achieve time with your child and the rest is up to you to manage. But it is not effective enough and there are cries of anguish sometimes at - the court helped enable the alienation. Because they didn't get it. Because the ex had a good barrister. Because Cafcass believed the Mother and didn't spot the child had been coached.

You can put Cafcass on the stand at final hearing and cross examine them if you feel the report was lacking, or investigations and reports were biased or they only saw the child with the Mother. Particularly if the recommendation is - indirect contact only with Dad due to conflict between parents. And then you are reliant on a Judge. A good barrister can help at this stage. But there are Dads who have self repped and achieved a change of residency and cross examined Cafcass.

Another topic - but - the family court system needs drastic change. Children need more protection from coercive control and subtle abuse by a parent.

Keep being a parent whether you see your child or not. Don't give up on them. Some Dads decide to give up trying to go to court to see their children. Some Dads are told not to return to court again. There is no right or wrong answer and weighing up the damage of leaving them with an alienator over the child going through months of abuse during court processes - to coach them - it is down to individual circumstances.

Get support. To help you cope and make the decisions. You will get support on here from Dads who have been through the court system but not all have had alienated children. It may also need professional support like counselling.

A living grief is hard - it's a double grief - for you and the child - not only are you losing your child but your child is being prevented from having a normal, happy childhood. They may find you again later in life - if nothing else has worked - but their childhood is being taken away from them.

This forum is here to try and support Dads - so Dads can keep supporting their kids and trying to protect their kids - and hopefully be reunited. Greater awareness can help too - there are organisations publicising Parental Alienation as abuse, and adults who were alienated as children starting to speak out. Greater awareness of the matter needs to translate into change - legal change, changes in social work training, training generally. It could be a double edged sword - greater awareness means people generally may whistleblow alienators. That is good. On the other hand alienators use the arguments for their own benefit - they know they are alienators so try to deflect that on someone else and hide things even more.

Some case law below on parental alienation cases. It can be disheartening to see that these cases almost all involved expensive psychologists and top barristers. But not in all cases. However there are cases of transfer of residence that don't get so much publicity. It is also heartening to hear that in some cases recently, courts have ordered psychologist reports funded by the courts, and the parents have not had to pay. NOTE: That Barristers can use the term Parental Alienation. But an LIP is not advised to do so and allow the courts to determine that conclusion instead. And an LIP can quote case law to back up their case.

Note the paragraph in Re L [2019] EWHC 867 (Fam)

"What this argument ended up exposing went to the heart of the case before the court. Essentially, the child was so damaged that his wishes and feelings could not be clearly ascertained even if they had been asked for. The court was reminded that 'ascertainable' does not simply mean what children say but also how they behave".

That highlights a couple of key arguments when dealing with court hearings - that the express wishes of the child are not the "ascertainable" wishes of the child. And that the child's wishes and feelings are only one twelfth of the welfare check list.

Analysis of Re L 2019

In Re T (Parental Alienation) [2019] EWHC 3854 (Fam) - Transfer of Residence. An expert psychologist and parental alienation barrister were involved

Brief Analysis of Re T Parental Alienation 2019

Full Judgement of Re T

Re H (Parental Alienation [2019] EWHC 2723 (Fam) - Transfer of Residence. Notably a 12 year old child at secondary school and hadn't seen his Father for 12 months. The court was robust in not assuming that there is an age limit as to when residence can be transferred. An expert psychologist involved in this case.

Analysis of Re H Parental Alienation

Re A (Children: Parental Alienation) [2019] EWHC B56 - Failed transfer of residence due to failures of the court system. The child returned to the Mother and the Father had to give up. This case alone should be an argument for a massive overhaul of the Family Court system. This case involved an eminent psychologist but too much damage had been done.

Brief Analysis of Re H

Full Judgement of Re H

Re R (Parental Alienation) [2019] EWFC 61 - In this case the Judge ordered a suspended residence order with shared care fortnightly with each parent. Transfer of residence would take place if the Mother defaulted. This case involved experienced Parental Alienation lawyers.

Re R Brief synopsis

Re R: Judgement

Re S (Parental Alienation: Cult: Transfer of Primary Care) [2020] EWHC 1940 (Fam) - In this case residence was transferred to the Father due to parental alienation by the Mother who was involved in a cult. An Independent Social Worker was involved so there was no court Guardian.

"F accepted that a transfer of residence would be devastating for the child but felt there was no other option. The father did not have a plan on how residence would be transferred which concerned the judge but ultimately the judge found him a child-focused and sensitive parent."

The Mother made an application to appeal the transfer. All her arguments for appeal were rejected. One of which was "The child's wishes and feelings were not obtained. Rejected- it was inappropriate to seek further evidence of the child's wishes and feelings due to the distress she was feeling around the conflict."

This is another positive where it is recognised that it could be harmful to obtain a Child's Wishes and Feelings when parental alienation is involved.

Re S - Synopsis and Judgement
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