Divorce, Tips & How-To

What is Parental Alienation?

Mature man holding son and looking at woman in foreground

Mature man holding son and looking at woman in foreground Custody battles are ugly, leaving children inevitably damaged as a result.  When parents throw the child’s needs out the window, kids are often programmed, brainwashed, or otherwise manipulated to reject the other parent. Scholarly consensus now points to parental alienation as being a largely overlooked form of child abuse.

Proving Parental Alienation

Hundreds of thousands of kids across the country are affected by parental alienation. The symptoms affect kids so distinctly that psychiatry experts want the phenomenon recognized by the DSM-5 as a mental disorder. At best, many agree that parental alienation is a serious relationship disorder. Psychological evaluations of your children can be an effective legal strategy for your children’s well-being and for proving alienation in court.

Signs of parental alienation could include the following behavior by your ex:

-Refusing to let your child talk to you on the phone.

-Not allowing you to visit the child.

-Throwing out mail or gifts you send to the child.

-Misinforming you about special events in your child’s life, such as sporting events, performances, or parent-teacher conferences, letting you look like you chose not to attend.

Can You Fight It?

You can take your ex to court if they are being unreasonable with allowing you to have a relationship with your children.  A therapist or other mediator can help — not only to calm down tense situations, but to be a witness to harmful behavior. In the courtroom, documenting of unmet appointments and children being available to talk on the phone can be helpful in righting wrongs.

Above all things, don’t retaliate in this situation.  Even if your spouse is being evil, hope that your more reasonable behavior will influence them to be a better parent.  Be kind to your children, even if they have been manipulated against you; in time, your kindness will speak for itself in court and at home.


  1. 1

    What you are all saying is so true but you really don’t realize how much of a problem this is. I am a specialist in Parental Kidnapping….the ultimate of Parent Alienation !! The sickness that it takes to kidnap your own child and keep them from the other parent is one of the greatest sins and tragedies of our world today. It runs a close second to Human Trafficking in my mind. Being the co-founder of the International Human Trafficking Task Force… ihttf.com …I know from where i speak. It happens 100,000 times per year in the USA alone and the police do little if anything about it ! The DA’s make a moral decision they have no right to make….they chose SELECTIVE PROSECUTION, which in itself is a crime. They chose not to call it a crime, EVEN THOUGH it is clearly a Felony and the DOJ considers Parental Kidnapping ‘EXTREME CHILD ABUSE’….. The law and our system panders to this crime and does little about it, but rather help it continue by their complete lack of caring or concern for child mental health UNTIL IT’S THEIR CHILD ! The first time a Congressman or Senators child or grandchild is taken, the world will change and I hope that happens SOON ! They deserve to know what it is like and how it feels to be helpless when your child is taken.
    Logan Clarke
    Global Pursuit
    International Investigations

  2. 2

    Reading over this I see the danger in what my ex wife is doing to my 2 yr old daughter. She tells her daddy is no good, daddy doesn’t love you, and says these things about the rest of my family too. My daughters immediate reaction to me is one of love. But on the ride to my house she starts saying you don’t love me, grandma is bad and so on and so on.
    I thought this was just hurting me . Now I see in the long run it hurting her. What can I do?

    • 3

      I’m so sorry to hear that you’re struggling with a similar situation, Bryan. It sounds like it might help you to get answers from an attorney in our free Q&A forum. Attorneys do not provide advice through our blog, but they do in the forum, usually within the first day or two of posting. All questions are open to answers for seven days. You can post your questions here when you’re ready: http://www.avvo.com/ask-a-lawyer. Avvo also offers a wealth of legal information in our Knowledge Base here: http://www.avvo.com/free-legal-advice. I hope this is helpful. Kindly, Danielle

  3. 4
    I really wish Pastors and friends of the the Lying Charming Alienaters would be sent this!!!

    My heart is breaking into and my court or cops in the county or attornys will not help because of the involvement in the county and prominence in every corner of the county…
    My exes dad has been the president of the county 4H fair board for almost 60 years. YES. WHY!?? WHY in the world is ONE PERSON a president that long?? it should a law , like the US that no one person should be allowed to hold office more than 2 terms. EVER. It isnt right.
    And people are terrified to vote against him. THey feel terrifed of losing their jobs . Of course they do!!! And so im stuck. Ive been through 9 attorneys in 15 years….. its useless. They get bought off too.
    Scared of losing their jobs and prestige and houses and familes and everything they have. How i got tangled in such a family is beyond me.

    Im so screwed! And even my own family has no idea. Not a clue….

    • 5

      I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. I know you’ve been through attorneys in the past, but if you are looking for new advice or assistance I would recommend locating an attorney using Avvo’s Legal Directory. You can search by practice area as well as location to find one close to you. Avvo profiles contain an attorney’s experience as well as client and peer reviews. Many offer free consultations, so be sure to ask if you decide to contact them on your own or through Avvo. Here’s the link to get started on your search: http://www.avvo.com/find-a-lawyer I hope this is helpful. Kindly, Danielle

  4. 6

    I’m getting the same. With my wife .

  5. 7

    I read the comments and the feelings and experiences are exactly the same with every parent that has to deal with alienation of his or her children. I am from Pakistan and dealing with my case in the US as my children were abducted by my wife and were brought here. I am still dealing with it but one thing I would suggest to all the parents here is to take care of themselves first. Do what ever it takes to be happy. Be in a happy place in your minds when you see and interact your children. And whatever you do, keep one thing in mind, our first and foremost job as parents is to love our children at all costs. Take everything out of equation. Wife/husband, money, abuse etc. Just keep your strong focus on loving your children and see how things will start to change. Our children are being taught NOT to love. Its our duty as parents to teach them nothing but love. No revenge no hatred for our tormentors. Simply focus on loving them and be patient. Don’t be discouraged. No discouragement, no disappointment. Only show your children the happiness mixed with love. That gets through to them.

  6. 8

    This type of alienation happened with my parents. I went through a divorce and raised my children with my second husband. My parents lured my eldest away and stepped in to help her stay with a boyfriend who was cheating on her. She went through two cheating boyfriends, and lived in the house of one of the boyfriends rather than come home because of the lies that her grandparents told about me. I literally did not see her at all until she graduated from college. The grandparents did not want me to see her by herself. The good news is that she is finally beginning to talk to me more and even wants to move back to the state where I live. People can ruin relationships by lies.

  7. 9

    For me, the reality of parental alienation came down to one choice. The path taken that will inflict the least amount of pain and suffering on the children. I believe this is a war that can not be won. The least amount of casualties are sustained by not fighting. Sad but true, from a probability point of view…A child who is being poisoned on a daily basis by a custodial parent, has very little, if not any chance of a relationship restoration with the alienated parent.

    Its the one situation I encountered in my life where being right is wrong and winning would be your children’s greater loss. Basically, you prove the other parent is inflicting abuse by demonizing you to the kids. The can result in a child that alienates both parents and grows up with a void inside that is not measurable.

  8. 10

    I have successfully filed bar complaints against opposing counsels who represent parents who are lying/harming/interfering with the other parent. True, not all will be represented, but this strategy works well if that is the case. No lawyer wants to be investigated and if you show some strength and present facts and evidence calmly and truthfully (no drama, no lies), then the lawyer’s self interest might kick in and they might refuse to represent the parent any more or advice them to take the high road and let the child engage with the parent. There is a constitutional right to parent without interference. See Troxell v Granville. This may prove of foundational help even if not specifically relevant.

  9. 11

    You cannot legislate morality. I was married to probably the only lawyer in south florida not to have made money with his degree. He warned me, when I found out I was 6 mos pregnant with twins he’d have nothing to do with them, since he couldn’t afford them. I busted my butt making sure they had as normal a childhood as could be expected (bikes, trips, camp). He’d show up to parade his progeny, only to withhold monies from child support if he thought they needed something, anything. The alternate week visitation was a joke. I’d spend 2 wks getting them to mind me, and he’d undo it in 48 hours. By the time they were 14 the level of disrespect for me was intolerable. They chose to live with him and, less than 24 hrs later I was served with notice to pay HIM child support. We fought post-divorce 14 years, with me always losing any extra child support I could eke out of him. He finally admitted he ran his practice and life through one bank acct. Whatever was left over at the end of the yr was his “income.” AND THE COURTS BOUGHT HIS LIES!

    The oldest is 41; the twins, 38. All professionals. Not one has anything to do with me, except minimally the oldest (who took the most serious brunt of his venom).

    Neither the courts (tried and lost), nor any professional counselors (tried and ineffective to identify the issues) were of help during their growing years.

    It is my opinion that you can’t fix stupid-at any price. You cannot legislate or inculcate conscience, morality, duty or honor when the person doing the mental masturbation has none for himself or his own mother. They are forever gone for me. However, had I remained married I wouldn’t be here today. Protect yourself; plan for yourself only. Don’t rely on lawyers to mandate behavior changes – it doesn’t happen. There is no “fix” for this problem. The line between love and hate is razor thin.
    Just prepare your own survival. It’s the only thing you can change.

  10. 12

    It’s happening to me and it’s killing me. My Therapist told me that the way I feel is worse than being dead. If you’re dead, you don’t feel, but if your life is like death but you’re still breathing (even when you wish you weren’t), you feel all of the pain.

    Given that, my comment is:

    What if we, as a group/culture/species stopped building our world to be so alienating, began to care for our neighbors, offer help instead of judging and calling CPS or the police, started to be willing to get involved instead of saying “I don’t want to be involved,” started thinking on our own about what the benefits and consequences of staying married are. What if we thought of our neighbor’s loud fights, constant police calls, etc. involving their children as a plea for help instead of a terrible annoyance? What if, instead, we noticed that the child needed a strong male or female figure in their life and we actually stepped up to the plate? What if we gave of ourselves instead of defaulting to blame and the “judicial system.” What if we started teaching ourselves and then our children that marriage is a commitment and not a feeling so that the resulting children were encased in a permanent safe environment? What if we started taking charge of our own bad choices of creating lives with people we didn’t take the time to get to know?
    What if?
    And again, I’m in the exact same agony as everyone else, but I realize that I allowed my children to be born into a relationship that was not solid, sanctioned or supported.

    For now, we must use what is available to help our children, but what if we could grow along the way?

  11. 13
    Ernest Caravalho

    @Karrie. As far as your remark goes about the parent having to get all that info themselves from the school, I will agree to a point. We must first realize that their are two types of custody. One being physical and the other being legal. Physical custody is where your child basically lives with you. So some parents have physical custody but no legal custody because they weren’t told that they should ask for legal custody also. Legal custody gives that patent the right to make all legal decisions from medical to school. Anything that had to do with a legal question. The parent with legal custody can block the school from giving any info to the other parent. If the school violates this, they can be held for damages. Not all parents can know what events are happening in their childs life, if the parent with legal custody so decides.

  12. 14

    They will place the child’s/children’s best interest above anybody else’s. Please don’t abuse your legal training to enforce the denial of the child’s or either parent’s constitutional rights to enable the subtle and torturous abuse into future generations. THIS MUST BE NIPPED IN THE BUD NOW! IT IS OK TO NOT WANT TO DO IT! – DO IT ANYWAY. (My father taught me this) namaste anyway. Place the children first and work out your ego/petty differences. Thank you.

  13. 15

    I have experienced parental alienation from my kids and I am still married! My husband talks trash to our kids about me and takes them out to places without me. Even his mother, who is my mother in law talks trash to the kids about me. It has become more and more obvious as they get older. I find myself hanging out with my oldest from a previous marriage because even she is alienated from the family. What is a married woman to do?

  14. 16

    gina’s comment is almost the same story my household deals with. we have had the hardest time every day since the day we got together and we have been married for 3 years now and lived together for 5 the child is 8 so im not a fly by night red light special but the mother hates my guts and tells the child this every day of her life also tells her that dad and her will get back together when im finally out of the picture. we have been to court so many times and had every rule to show cause found in our favor. after reading this it is clear to me that the child needs a GAL so that her own personal atty can make it a priority to get the child help as her mother is so consumed with getting dad back for leaving her 7 years ago . we never say bad things about mother cause we belive one day child will see that after all this crazy crap we never acted as she did ..good luck to you all and us too!!

  15. 17

    I have witnessed my boyfriend go through this for 3 years now. Everything on the above list his ex has done and more. It is very sad. It used to anger me and now I think I have my edge back. I have read the NPD books which this particular woman seems to have serious relation: Narcissist Personality Disorder. I truly think the people that are blatant in this type of behavior fit into this disorder. People that have traits of severe narcissism usually never get the help they need as they think they are perfect, justified in their actions, feelings, and further more truly feel their S#&t don’t stink. They will lie to kids, to teachers and family; the more they tell their version the more true it is. They make their life up, just as we all do I suppose. Some simply like to be the victim. The REAL issue is how this behavior takes a toll on the children. I’ve seen these particular children judge the father’s family members and treat them as mom would, same goes for the treatment of my boyfriend and I. They cannot talk to dad freely on nighttime phone calls, we have probably had 5 normal calls in three years; where the children were free to say what they wanted and be happy in talking to dad. Otherwise the tone is monotone, quick to hang up. Also, when he does get told or finds out on his own about a school or other activities, the children often have ignored us being there. Rolled eyes and negative talk goes hand in hand with mom’s attitude anytime dad is at an event. The mother stomps around, doing strange childlike tantrums in public to be sure we see how irritated she is that we have shown up. The kids are her emotional support and they are manipulated to do it. They are in survival mode. My relationship with these children is severed, we do not touch, they seem not allowed to accept gifts form me, the communication is quick and not sincere. If they like something I got them they do not thank me. Will it get better for them? and for us? I hate the thought of the time when they see mom as flawed, responsible for drama and hate spreading. I really do not want them to go through that, but there is a part of me that cannot wait for them to see the light. All I want is to have a friendship with these children. I will keep my hope that one day things will change and the future beyond that day will be good for all of us including the mom. -I am a product of a divorced family and my parents did not do this to me, they shared me, respected me, let me love both, were able to be together be at birthday parties and communicate without putting me in the middle. I know it can be done, but only when each parent is really putting the best interest of the child into their actions. Hang in there to all who have responded.

  16. 18

    Do not trust the law to provide justice in any short of quickness. I have spent over £50,000 in legal fees since 2008. I had raised my two children, 8 & 6 then from birth and was forced from my home by a a corrupt judge and a court order arranged by my then wife.

    She had left me for one of her bad boys who I found out was a prolific users of prostitutes, has sex with his daughter when she was 10, is still a drug and alcohol abuser. When I told her I was going after custody of the children she goes to court and accuses me abuse. Her word against mine. I had over 10 witnesses and statements saying what a good father I am, and how I was always supportive of my family and loving toward them

    Made no difference her word against mine – judges here will award children to crack addict whores. It’s always the mother’s word that is accepted as being truthful – the father is only meant to provide financially which I have never stopped doing.

    I have kept in contact with my children and they tell me they want to liv with me. My daughter now 15 has told her mother that when she turns 16 she is leaving her and will never be back. Her brother has told his mother that when his sister leaves he will go with her and not be back either.

    Their mother has several personality disorder which I have attempted to get her help for – even the NHS doctors refuse to get involved.

    Then I found the answer which has caused her to suddenly do a turn around and she has agreed to get a psychological assessment. I do not want to alienate our children from their mother, and will do whatever it takes legally to get her into care.

    She has a very strong public profile with her job, as does Lover-boy. Both are intelligent and good looking and morally bankrupt. I developed a website naming in chronological order everything I have gone through over the past 7 years – everything! Her accusations – judgements etc.

    I used their Facebook, Twitter, and their blogs to mine the email and contacts of those they have built this wonderful persona of being the perfect mother and the wonderful dad. I sent her an email with the parked link and told her if she didn’t get a psychological assessment to prove she needed help then I would send the URL to everyone she had contact with.

    Her response after her anger and consulting a solicitor who told her that as along as I stuck to known facts i, the truth, t was not defamation of character was, “Please don’t do that. I’ll get the assessment.”

    The same assessment I tried to get her GP to authorize and the courts refused to order without good cause. Once I have the assessment I can then use it to get my children away rom her and hopefully her into treatment .

    Bottom line: Take charge of your life, stop relying upon others to do your battles – the politicians, solicitor, judges all get paid whether they they side with you or the mother. Use only legal methods, be quick and sure and do it without malice but expose the bitch or the bastard as the case may be. For too long these sick people get away with what they do because they can hide behind the pseudo justice system.

    As Winston Churchill said, “Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

    They are our children, we raised them, we love them, and we’ll die for them – take your battle to the only court that will be fair: The court of public opinion. Exposure of the truth will set you and your children free.

    God speed

  17. 19

    I believe that law cannot function without Christianity America’s founding fathers believed that. Until recently more courts and media are getting away from the biblical aspect of importance.

    And we are hearing more and more how our laws are becoming more toward anti Christian. A lot of laws were derived from the bible and worked and made America the superpower it once was. But as other religions and groups come in they bring thinking ,and strange religions into America and it creates division.I believe the obedience in the what the bible teaches us should be our goal everyday as people. And last to vote out the people in our government that are not fruitful.

  18. 20

    My story is almost unreal. I will keep this focused on the subject matter. I was kept from my kids and I just continued to show up…they moved 800 miles away. I showed up. I wrote. I sent gifts. I wouldn’t go away. The ex wouldn’t let my kids talk to my parents before they died. My parents died reeling from the grief of not saying goodbye. Now my kids and my grandson are here with me. The ex died, his parents are dying, and at the last minute, my children went to see them for Christmas. I’m usually quiet about my true feelings but I told my son today that Those people disgust me. I have to hold my tougue, but when my son brings up the subject expecting sympathy, the best I can do is to feel his pain. They can go meet my Mother because she likely has some unfinished business with them.
    His grandfather is having heart surgery in March.
    I’m waiting for my Christmas present, maybe I’ll get it in MARCH.

  19. 21

    This is truly a difficult and complex situation. While it’s true that the visiting parent can and should call teachers, principals, coaches, etc. directly, that does not mean that the custodial parent had the right to provide wrong information!
    Let’s be practical! If you are on the phone with child’s parent and they tell you that the next game of the soccer tournament is tomorrow at 9:00 am, you should be able to rely on that!
    Your ex has an obligation to be civil AND to put the best interests of the child first !!!!
    I would document these incidents and then hire an attorney to go back to court to change custody. Mediation will be required. An attorney will probably be appointed for the child — and they will be on your side!!!! Therapy for the kids would probably be ordered. I realize it costs money to hire an attorney to fight this behavior. But, look again at the language in your divorce decree. The decrees I write contain language designed to prevent this. If you can file a motion for contempt or enforcemt, you may be able to ask for attorney fees.
    It is not a good idea to let this go on for years without taking action. This not only harms you, it harms your child and affects how he or she learns to treat the opposite sex and how to behave in a relationship. My heart goes out to all of you who have had to deal with this.
    All of this being said, you still have to do the right thing — even when you are surrounded by madness!!!
    Please feel free to call 281.550.6650 to arrange for an attorney appointment if you wish to discuss your personal case facts. I hope for a better future for your families!

  20. 22

    I am divorced from a mentally ill man who from the 70’s told my oldest son and maybe the
    2nd oldest lies about me. This oldest son became a PA and claims there is nothing wrong
    with his dad. I cannot see my grandson even though the first time he took the grandson
    away from both of us, he saw how his dad tore up our kitchen floor and said his son was
    not safe. No worry about me however. I have a court case involved with this mentally ill
    man has stolen MEGA amounts of money and can I get anything done with seeing my
    grandchild at the same time ?

    • 23

      I apologize but here at Avvo we do not provide legal advice, but we encourage you to use our legal guides, question and answer forum, and/or lawyer directory to get answers to your questions or to find a lawyer to help you.

      Search our legal knowledge base for articles and answers on hundreds of legal issues: http://www.avvo.com/free-legal-advice.

      Ask a question to our legal community through Avvo Answers: http://www.avvo.com/ask-a-lawyer. Lawyers answer these questions and guide you to resources that may help you.

      To search the legal directory, start from http://www.avvo.com/find-a-lawyer where you can search for an attorney by practice area and location.

      Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.


  21. 24

    This is happening to me right now! It is the most devastating thing I can think of in regard to my recent separation from my abusive husband. The biggest problem I’m facing is that my child is 19 years old and still living in the marital home with her father. Since she is an adult, I have no legal standing and my hands are tied. He is literally fabricating situations, claiming I did this or said that in an effort to illicit an emotional response from her AND she is falling for it! Right now she hates me for something I never said or did. I am beside myself.

  22. 25

    What are the laws protecting aunts? My sister, being a sociopath, does not allow me and my nephew see each other. She throws away gifts and cards I send him and has blocked me out of his cell phone. This lady is crazy being jealous of me and my nephew having any good relationship. There are no other sources of conflict between us but she is refusing to see me because she is afraid that the child loves me too. Unfortunately, my brother in law has passed away and this crazy sister has total control over my wonderful nephew. This has been going on for 6 years now. How can you help?

    • 26

      That’s a great question for an attorney to respond to in Avvo’s free Q&A forum. All questions are open to answers from attorneys for seven days.

      Avvo also has a robust legal directory where you can search for attorneys in your neighborhood should you be interested in speaking with one in person. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

      Here is the link to both the Q&A forum and the directory:

      I hope this is helpful.


  23. 27

    You can’t blame your ex for missinforming you about school events. It’s your job as parents to make contact with the teachers, And it is your right to be informed of all events. Just make sure that you are on their contact list as well, whether it’s email, Phone or regular mail. Do not depend on the custodial parent to do it for you.… Especially if they are hostile. I think a lot of parents Playing the custodial parent for not keeping them informed when it’s not their job… And it is so easily remedied. Sometimes it’s just easier to tell the kids later, “your mom Never told me about your school playwouldn’t let me see you.”

  24. 28

    Like many other women my ex husband also tried to keep our 2 youngest daughters from seeing me even though there was a court order. When we were together he would be fine and the moment I left his sight he would start being mean on the phone and not letting my girls talk to me or visit me on the weekends. As time rolled by I was refusing calls from him , I blocked his number, he then slowed it down when he saw I was keeping firm on my end of not talking to him, and even if it meant not talking to my girls for a while. He pretty much started to go with the flow of just dropping them off and leaving. You really need to separate your talking to these exs because a lot of them are so jealous, they will do anything including using the children to get at you. With all in all, my girls have always felt my love no matter what he said or did. they are 14 and15 and now I am raising them on my own because their father committed suicide about a month ago. Some things in life come harder than others. I wish you all the best.

  25. 29

    My ex committed domestic violence in front of our daughter was verbally abusive and made me feel as if I was crazy. My daughter is now in her 20s and refuses to talk to me and let me see my grandchildren. She has started calling her step mom mom and my grand kids calls her grandma even after being abused my her and her dad.

  26. 30

    Your solution to this problem does not work. My ex-husband alienated my two children from me. They are now in their early 30s. They will have nothing to do with me because all they want from me is my money. I was much more stable and responsible with my finances then my ex. He gave them no support whatsoever growing up.

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