What is Parental Alienation?

More than twenty years ago the late author and renowned child psychiatrist Richard A. Gardner coined the term Parental Alienation Syndrome.

He used this term to characterise the breakdown of what was previously normal and healthy parent-child relationships during divorce and child custody cases. The definition of parental alienation according to Gardner is simple. One parent (in most cases the resident parent) deliberately damages, and in some cases destroys the previously healthy loving relationship between the child and the child’s other parent (the non-resident parent). A key tell-tale sign of Parental Alienation is when the alienating parent prevents their children from having any relationship with the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on the alienated parents’ side of the family.

Severe parental alienation is simply a manifestation of standard and established forms of pathologies.

In 2014 Dr Craig Childress introduced an improved model of parental alienation, based on attachment theory. It is sometimes referred to as ‘pathogenic parenting’. Its definition and basis is arguably based within a more psychological context than the Gardner Model. Childress argues that severe parental alienation is simply a manifestation of standard and established forms of pathologies. Childress’ argument is that his Attachment Based Parental Alienation model is not a theory, nor does it describe a mental illness. Instead its intention is to describe a specific set of symptoms in a child which lead a psychologist to a clinical diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse.

Article 9 from The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (separation from parents) states that:

Children must not be separated from their parents against their will unless it is in their best interests (for example, if a parent is hurting or neglecting a child).
Children whose parents have separated have the right to stay in contact with both parents, unless this could cause them harm

Terms such as ‘alienating behaviours’ are certainly used in the writing of fact finding assessments and reports. Numerous court and social services based professionals will both admit and acknowledge that the problem of one parent alienating the children against the other parent is common and damaging to the well being of the effected children. However it is rarely acted upon by the courts due to it currently not being recognised by any government authority in the UK.

Institutions & Services

What is the Family Court?

The Family Courts in the UK will primarily make decisions regarding children and finances post separation.

What is Mediation?

If the separation is not high-conflict then an alternative form of dispute resolution is Mediation. This can be used instead of going to court.

Who are Cafcass?

Cafcass (The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) is a public body set up in England. Cafcass has a duty to safeguard children going through the family justice system, focusing specifically on their welfare.

What is the Role of Children’s Social Services?

Children’s Social Services can be ordered to be involved in a case if the family court feel that is needed. The role of Children’s Social Services within this context is to work alongside other professionals to ensure that any children or young persons in a case receive appropriate care, education and health services.


What is a Children’s Guardian?

A Children’s Guardian is part of Cafcass. The aim of the Children’s Guardian is to attempt to keep the court focused on what is best for any children or young persons involved in the family court. A Children’s Guardian will appoint a Children’s Solicitor.

What is a Children’s Solicitor?

A legally trained person who provides advice to people going through the family courts and can speak for them in court if it is felt appropriate to do so.

What is a Family Law Solicitor?

Family law solicitors focus on issues involving family relationships, such as adoption, divorce, and child custody, among others. In our experience, if you are experiencing parental alienation/contact denial, there are very few high street family law solicitors that have the knowledge, experience and past success rate in managing complex cases such as those involving parental alienation.

What is a McKenzie Friend?

A McKenzie Friend is an unqualified person who assists an individual representing themselves in court (known as a litigant in person, or LIP) in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland. We advise using the support of a McKenzie Friend whenever possible and can recommend some who have a good working knowledge of complex cases, such as those involving parental alienation. Please contact us you would like us to put you in contact with an appropriate McKenzie Friend.

What is a Direct Access Barrister?

A litigant in person (LIP) can directly access a barrister without going to a solicitor first. However, the LIP remains responsible for the day-to-day progress of their own case management. Direct Access Barristers would give a LIP advice and represent them in court to negotiate on their behalf.

What is an Independent Social Worker?

An Independent Social Worker (ISW) will work as an expert witness in complex and high conflict care proceedings concerning child protection and child welfare within the family justice system. Any proposed assessment or intervention by an ISW has to be applied for via the court. Within our network of professionals we can signpost you to ISWs that are also Reconciliation Specialists. Such ISWs specialise in reconciliation work with cases of parental alienation.

Please Note: We pledge to never make a profit or any other form of financial gain from any individuals affected by the current injustice of the family justice system.

We will gladly signpost individuals to professionals within our wider network who operate in line with our core principles; contact us for more details.

We pledge to never request payment from such individuals, nor request a finder’s fee from such professionals for any referrals made.

We offer a completely free Support Line. To find out more prior to booking click here. To book a call from one of our dedicated Support Line Volunteers click here

The CCA Support Team

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