Parental alienation is a common allegation in high conflict divorce. It is also a documented psychological disorder. However, it is rare and must be properly diagnosed.

When parents separate, it is common for a child to favour one parent over the other. This is especially true if the child perceives wrong doing by one parent. This is commonly seen in cases of infidelity were the child supports the “wronged” parent. This is described as parental estrangement and usually passes quite quickly. Parental Alienation results in long term damage to the child and the family.

What is Parental Alienation?

Alienation occurs when a child displays an overwhelming preference for one parent and extreme negativity towards the other parent.  Alienation has been accepted by the courts across Canada. It is not easy to determine if Parental Alienation has occurred without an expert opinion.  The expert must be independent of the parties. It is not uncommon for high conflict parents to seek out third party supporters. Counsellors need to be registered and accredited. Many free service use “lay counsellors”. These are often well meaning, but lack the specialized training to assess Alienation.

In BC, the increased emphasis on the Views of the Child Reports has provided an opportunity for high conflict parents to manipulate their children into supporting their conflict with the other parent. If you suspect Parental Alienation,  a Views of the Child Report is likely inappropriate. In these cases, you should opted for a full parental assessment by a qualified psychologist. When selecting a psychologist, ensure that they have experience with assessing Parental Alienation

Parental Alienation was canvassed in the BC Supreme Court Judgement of C.J.J. & A.J. (NewWestminster BC, April 2016). In this case, Dr. Reay and Dr. Worenklein  testified. These are two leading experts.

Michael Butterfield

Parenting Co-ordinator and Family Mediator