What Is Parental Alienation and How Does It Affect Child Custody?

Does your child shy away from you? Do they call you names and use vocabulary that you find suspicious? They may be exhibiting signs of parental alienation.

What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation results when one parent’s actions cause their child to view their other parent in an entirely negative way, through both conscious programming techniques and subconscious /unconscious techniques.

The results of such conduct are as follows:

1. The child may wish to limit or entirely cut off contact with the rejected parent.

2. The child will have no obvious feelings of guilt or ambivalence about this rejection.

3. The child will see the alienated parent as demonized and evil.

4. Often, parental alienation results in custody disputes.

5. Unfortunately, the emotional damage of parental alienation can have long-lasting effects on a child and even affect their future relationships with their own children.

Indicators of Parental Alienation:

– The child’s withdrawal from the relationship with their parent

– Sometimes the child may use language that is not appropriate for their age, and use speech that sounds rehearsed

– The child may make unsubstantiated allegations against the alienated parent.

– The child views one parent as entirely bad, and the other parent as entirely good

– The rejection and denigration by the child is persistent and regular

– The animosity is not just to the rejected parent but also to their family and friends

– The rejection is irrational

There will be no Alienation found where:

– The hostility and rejection is temporary and short-lived rather than chronic

– The behaviour is occasional rather than frequent

– The behaviour occurs only when certain conditions are present

– The behaviour is directed at both parents

– The child shows love and affection at times

Parental Alienation & Custody

The Divorce Act follows the maximum contact principle, which means that every child will have access to both parents so long as it is in their best interest. Any parent who does not follow a scheduled custody arrangement or tries to prevent their child from seeing the other parent can face penalties in court. If alienation is suspected, maintaining positive contact with the alienating child is very important. Engaging in fun and conflict-free activities with the child can be one way to try and reverse the parental alienation effect.

A court-ordered resolution may be sought but is expensive and requires evidence from objective third parties who can comment on the relationship between the parent and the child.

Counselling may also be sought on the matter.

It is possible that the court will reverse custody in certain situations, even for older children. As well, in extreme situations, there is not necessarily a requirement for expert evidence to establish parental alienation. The court has the power to order therapy as a remedy to try and resolve the relationship.

Families Moving Forward (https://familiesmovingforward.ca/): A program based in Toronto that offers intensive clinical and educational interventions for families, as well as post-intervention recommendations. This program is designed to prevent a strained relationship from becoming impossible to repair and to allow families to heal their relationships and move forward.

For more information on parental alienation and child custody, you can reach out to one of our Family Lawyers by contacting our office at 905-366-0202 or contact us through our website here.


– Memorandum from Dionne Brown Chambers, “When will parental alienation result in a variation of custody from the alienating parent to the alienated parent: Family Law Act?” (September 26, 2019) [Memo].

– Feldstein Family Law Group, “Learn About Parental Alienation”(10 June 2020): Feldstein Family Law Group Professional Corporation ].

– Gene C. Colman, “General Parental Alienation Information”(10 June 2019) online (blog): Gene C. Colman Family Law Centre,[Colman].

– Families Moving Forward, (https://familiesmovingforward.ca/)

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