Parental Alienation During COVID-19: Overview and Trends

Parental Alienation During COVID-19: Overview and Trends

Custodial parents must not use the pandemic as a means to keep the children away from the other parent or else they may face accusations of parental alienation. This is true especially if the non-custodial parent is complying with government guidelines to avoid exposing the children to infection.

Parental alienation describes a pattern of conduct by one parent which has the effect of causing a child to reject the other without justification. This is why courts give little weight to the preferences of alienated children in making child custody and access decisions. The burden to prove the respondent’s alienating conduct is on the rejected parent.

Courts take parental alienation extremely seriously and consider it a form of child abuse. In addition, alienation of children has negative consequences to their self-esteem, mental and developmental health.


There are two types of parental alienation:

Pure alienation occurs when the child’s attitude toward the rejected parent is entirely due to the influence of the preferred parent’s wrongful conduct

 Mixed alienation occurs if the child’s rejection of a parent is a product of a variety of circumstances, including the rejected parent’s conduct prior to separation.


 Evidence of alienating conduct during the pandemic may include:
  • badmouthing
  • creating the impression that the other parent is dangerous
  • providing the child with information that is personal or which relates to the litigation
  • asking the child to spy on the other parent
  • The child is dependent on the preferred parent and the authority of the other is undermined.


A child who has been alienated presents “symptoms” which can include:
  • an absence of rational reasons for rejection
  • lack of ambivalence concerning the rejected parent
  • spurning members of the rejected parent’s extended family
  • and reflexive support of the alienating parent



Trends in COVID-19 “Parental Alienation” Cases

  • It remains parental alienation even if parents are denying access based on the children’s wishes. 
  • Parental alienation cases continue to be highly fact-specific and determined on a case-by-case basis during the pandemic.
  • Alienation of children from one parent is difficult to determine based on affidavit evidence alone.
  • It is not in the best interests of babies to have 50-50 equal parenting time, and courts will not consider it parental alienation for a mother to deny this.
  • Be cautious if you plan on introducing recordings that show the other parent’s alienating behavior. 
  • A court may mandate reunion treatment if parental alienation is discovered.
  • The court does not appoint each parent as judge and jury of the other. Not every circumstance, event, or mistake by a parent that detrimentally affects a child will justify a court changing existing custody or access order. Parenting is a holistic process and one mistake is not likely to be fatal.

In conclusion, parental alienation is harmful to all parties involved. Instead of condoning a child’s resistance to access during the pandemic, custodial parents have a responsibility to encourage them to participate as it is in their best interests.

If you are looking for more information, do not hesitate to contact us and our specialist family lawyers in Mississauga can discuss your matter in more detail over a free consultation. You can reach our office at 905-366-0202 or contact us through our website here.

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