Parental alienation is a phenomenon that occurs when a child aligns with one of their parents, and rejects the other parent due to alienating behaviours of the first parent. The concept of parental alienation entered the Australian family law sphere approximately 30 years ago. Parental alienation is an issue that is becoming increasingly raised in parenting matters.
Parental alienation can occur for a number of reasons. The parent who has been alienated almost always asserts that parental alienation has occurred because the other parent lacks capacity or willingness to facilitate a relationship between the alienated parent and the child.
Judges of the Family Court have strongly recommended that cases that involve allegations of parental alienation should be approached in a less adversarial manner.
Family Dispute Resolution is an excellent alternative to having a judicial decision on the care arrangements for a child in matters where there is alleged parental alienation.
The Benefits of Family Dispute Resolution
The benefit of participating in Family Dispute Resolution is that parents can be actively involved in determining the care arrangements, rather than having the care arrangements determined by a Judge that does not personally know their family.
With the Family Dispute Resolution process, the mediator needs to complete a detailed intake session with each of the parties to determine a matters suitability for mediation. During these intake sessions the mediator will identify if one parent is raising concerns about parental alienation.
Focusing on parental alienation being caused solely by one parent’s actions often results in other factors not being considered about why a child is aligning with one parent. There are a number of reasons why a child might align with one parent including:
- A child’s inability to cope with conflict, especially if they have been exposed to parental conflict for a long period of time;
- A child’s resistance to one parent’s parenting style, especially if the two parents have opposite parenting styles;
- A child being concerned or fearful for their primary carer, this can include being scared to leave that parent alone or scared of the other parent’s actions towards that parent; or
- A child’s opposition to one parent’s new lifestyle, including for example new partners and step-siblings.
Child Inclusive Mediation
One option for matters with allegations of parental alienation is child inclusive mediation, using the assistance of a child expert.
Using a child expert may help parents understand the impacts of the parental conflict on their children. A child expert may be able to assist parents to understand why a child is aligning with one parent and come up with strategies to address the child’s concerns, so that a relationship can be maintained with both parents.
Benefits of Child Inclusive Mediation
The benefit of child inclusive mediation in these sorts of matters is that a child expert can assist the parents to create more suitable and tailored care arrangements and help parents understand and manage the parenting disputes better after mediation.