Understanding Parental Alienation in High Conflict Divorce Cases

Connie Lupichuk, MSW, RSW

Senior Consultant at Incentive Counselling

Parental alienation happens in custody battles when one parent gets the child to say bad things about the other parent. This hatred can spread throughout the targeted parent’s extended family in high-conflict divorce cases. Parental alienation typically occurs during high-conflict divorce cases. Basically, it’s psychological abuse for the kids.

The research shows that both moms and dads may be doing this on purpose, encouraging alienation by sending messages or doing subtle brainwashing. In the long run, both things are bad for a child’s mental health.

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a mental illness in which a child loses the ability to love a rejecting parent. The child believes the rejecting parent is unworthy or threatens the relationship’s stability. If left untreated, children exposed to these unfair circumstances can have long-term issues into their teen and adult years that may never properly heal.

As parents struggle to focus on their children during high-conflict divorce proceedings, they can cause the child to reject a parent, thereby unfairly damaging the relationship. This behavior is a form of child abuse.

Most courts and lawyers don’t know how to deal with the emotional and mental damage these cases do to children. Most people who work in mental health do not have enough training to fix these unfortunate situations.

The Impact of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) on the Behaviour of the Child

PAS is a disorder that often shows up in child custody battles. Children are used as tools and told to turn away from their parents. Healthy relationships between parents and children don’t push a child away from a parent or cause a parent to feel alone.

Behaviors such as hatred and favoritism that favor protecting the alienating parent are indicators of PAS. Children may sometimes make false allegations and insist it is their choice to engage in this behavior in court. They usually get angry when their favorite parent is accused of manipulating them.

How the Courts and Lawyers Can Help Alleviate the Negative Impact of PAS on Families in High Conflict Divorce Cases

It is natural for children to want to have good relationships with both of their parents. When dealing with divorce cases that involve high conflict and having to go to court for a long time, lawyers must assist their clients in coping with the emotional effects of the proceedings. Kids shouldn’t go through this unfair process when they can’t change it.

What can lawyers and the courts do for children caught up in this unhealthy dynamic that can have long-term psychological consequences?

Minimize the damage and protect the children by incorporating the Family Bridges program into their resolution strategies.

Reuniting and Strengthening Families through Family Bridges™ 

The Family Bridges TM workshop is based on scientific research in cognitive, social, developmental, and social neurosciences. After 23 years, the program’s intervention has restored the rejected parent’s relationship with their children.

Family BridgesTM achieves in four days what therapists and the legal system still need to do over years of litigation. The goal of Family Bridges is to assist children in having a positive, healthy relationship with both of their parents. This relationship is critical to their psychological well-being and is intrinsically their right.

I am designated and trained to offer the Family Bridges™ program for Western Canada.

To learn more about a training seminar regarding Parental Alienation and/or the availability of the Family Bridges™ program consultations for children at risk of Parental Alienation Syndrome, contact me at connie@incentivecounselling.ca.