Parental alienation is one of the most difficult things to prove and yet it is one of the most damaging to children and families. It can easily lead to a child completely losing their relationship with one parent and wrongly coming to believe that the parent was abusive or wicked in some other way.
Of course, it’s not uncommon for parents who are separated to bear some grudges against their ex. There will, after all, have been good reasons for separating and there will have been many disappointments and broken dreams in the course of the breakdown of the relationship. It may be tempting to draw the children into the arguments, to share the anger and sadness with them but, if at all possible, that should be avoided. As with quarrels between parents in front of the children, quarrels between parents after separation also put a terrible strain on children whose loyalty and love can be tested to breaking point.
How does parental alienation harm children?
Unfortunately, some separated parents are incapable of remembering to protect their children from their adult quarrels and demand that children get involved and take sides against their ex. This is immensely damaging to children and at its worst can destroy any relationship with the parent who is being campaigned against. This in effect amounts to losing a parent, which is a terrible loss for any child.
Tactics by the parent who tries to alienate their child against their ex can range from the very subtle, such as little hints of disapproval of whatever the other parent does, to the gross and appalling, such as making allegations of sexual abuse which the child may even be persuaded to believe to be true.
The parent who is on the receiving end of this parental alienation will notice a change in their relationship with their child with a growing emotional distance from them, greater reluctance to come to contact and angry or critical comments which seem unfounded. These are signs of parental alienation syndrome in the child.
Others, such as grandparents and friends, may join in on behalf of the alienating parent, making it even more difficult for the child to keep a balanced view and remain loving towards the alienated parent. Children will inevitably feel guilty if they go against what they can see these adults want and will be in the stressful position of having to pretend to agree with all the adults around them.
Find out more about parental alienation and how to prove it here.
How to respond to parental alienation
For the parent who is on the receiving end of this alienating campaign, the situation is very difficult indeed. The experience of being wrongly criticised and undermined is hurtful and infuriating and it’s easy to join in and retaliate. Of course doing so is a mistake because the hostile response can seem to justify the criticisms being made of them. If they get angry it gives an excuse to accuse them of being aggressive. If they make allegations in return and join in with trying to get the child to take sides, then it puts even more pressure on the child. Of course, denying grotesque false allegations of sexual or physical abuse is hopeless – “You would say that wouldn’t you”.
How to gather evidence of parental alienation
‘Gather evidence’ is the golden rule and get legal help. These are difficult and complicated cases and you need all the help you can get. All you can do is provide all the evidence you can that the criticisms and allegations are untrue. To do this, make a clear note of what happens and add any supporting evidence you can.
To support your record of what has happened, you need to particular forms of evidence, namely:
- Real or tangible evidence: this is usually an actual thing, such as bills, receipts or photos, which can be produced either to prove that they exist or so that the court can make an inference as to its value as evidence. For example a photo can show that someone was in a particular place at a particular time, which may be important.
- Documentary evidence: documents on paper or as digital records, where the content of the document has useful, relevant information.
These kinds of evidence are more powerful than a simple written account of something that happened because they take the evidence further than simply saying that something happened or asserting that something is true. Often a picture (or a document) is worth a thousand words.
How to prove parental alienation in court
In any court, the judge, magistrates, or other decision maker will be looking to see if there’s anything amongst all the evidence which backs up what’s being said and which they can decide is credible. The more support there is for what you say the better, as long as it’s to the point. For example, in a contact hearing in the Family Court, one of the parents may allege that the other failed to turn up on a particular day, despite a promise to do so, causing the child to be greatly upset. The parent alleges that the child is now saying the other parent can’t be trusted and doesn’t want any more visits. But the parent facing this allegation has kept records and has some photos of the child smiling and enjoying a trip out. The parent can’t necessarily prove that they promised contact on that particular day but they can show (using an EXIF – exchangeable image file format – app) the date, time and location of photos of contact. If the evidence is that contact did in fact occur on that date, not only have the photos shown the child’s enjoyment of contact generally but they will also disprove the false allegation in particular, proving the other to be dishonest so that the rest of their evidence will be mistrusted.
The message is (1) make records, (2) add supporting evidence and (3) prove the time and place where it happened. The ONRECORD mobile app (click on this link) provides the perfect tool, combining your account of events with supportive evidence and assembling it into a coherent record over time – a chronology. By using location services, ONRECORD collects not only the upload date and time but also the location where the record was uploaded. For the full benefit, make and upload records on the spot, immediately or as soon as possible after the event and before you leave the scene. The key information will then be automatically saved in your chronology to serve as convincing evidence.
When you make a record, always think what extra evidence you might have that will help you prove what you say, whether it is a photo, a screenshot, a video or a document. ALWAYS KEEP ORIGINALS. You might be asked to produce them so they can be checked out. When you’re involved in something serious, don’t throw away anything that might help you prove what you or someone else has done. Be vigilant and look for anything that might help if a case has to be made.