The Hidden Disease of Parental Alienation

  • 25 Apr 2016

Parental alienation can be very prevalent in homes of divorce or struggling families. Some might say it is like a hidden disease, that if not treated properly, will consume everyone involved. A parent may not even recognize they are falling victim to this until it is too late. By that time, the child’s view of the alienated parent has already been distorted beyond repair.

Parental alienation is the use of psychological manipulation of a child to damage his or her view of the other parent. Often times this is due to one parent’s inability to separate conflict in the marriage with the well-being of the child. If these symptoms are noticeable in your family, action must be taken quickly to stop it head on. Depending on the severity of the case and the stage your child is already in, it may be harder to decide on which action to take. Let us first look at common symptoms of a child subjected to parental alienation and then discuss a variety of solutions you should consider to remedy the situation.

Symptoms of Parental Alienation

The severity of these may differ greatly, but here are common signs your family is falling subject to this:

  • Asking the child to choose one parent over the other.
  • Refusing to allow the other parent access to school, medical or extracurricular activities.
  • When a child cannot give reasons for being angry towards a parent or their reasons are very vague without any details. [1]
  • One parent playing the role of victim to the child with the other parent set as the perpetrator.
  • Making degrading comments about each other or false allegations of abuse.
  • One parent confiding all the details of the ongoing issues with the minor children so as to get them on his or her side.
  • Continuing to make up reasons why the child or children cannot visit.
  • Frequently making Child Protective Service complaints against the alienated parent which end up having no merit.

How to Move Forward to Resolution

If you have identified symptoms of parental alienation in your home, it is best to look at the dynamics of your family first to then decide how to find a solution with your child’s best interest at heart. If addressing the parent conducting the alienation does not work, some suggestions include:

  • Getting help from a parenting consultant experienced in parental alienation.
  • Finding a parenting program or support group in your area that can help you navigate through this difficult time.
  • Finding resources in the form of books, webinars, or online education programs that may provide some effective tips and strategies to try. There is an online program which addresses this issue in more detail. The moderator is Ryan Thomas. Please visit for more information.  There has been very good feedback from the program participants that I have met.
  • You can attempt reconciliation therapy with the minor child.

Of course, some of the potential solutions, listed above, may not be possible without a court order. The alienating parent may not willingly cooperate with the alienated parent. Therefore, getting a lawyer may be necessary.  Sometimes when a judge is presented with concrete evidence that one parent is alienating the child from the other parent, the alienating parent faces legal consequences. Those consequences may involve losing custodial rights, supervised visitation, being ordered to pay  attorney’s fees, or other sanctions. Regardless of what you decide to do, be very diligent in documenting the current situation and the different ways you have tried to take action. This may be used in court to show misconduct if the situation continues to get worse.

Getting an Attorney

In more serious alienation cases such as false allegations of neglect or abuse, by the alienating parent, to Child Protection Services, you should get an attorney immediately. I recommend getting an aggressive one experienced with criminal defense law. Many times an accused parent knows he or she is innocent of a charge or complaint and believes there is no need to hire an attorney.  The accused parent believes that hiring an attorney makes them look guilty. That is not the right approach in this situation. In fact, that is more of a reason to hire an attorney. An attorney can advise, protect, and defend against false allegations. [2] In this situation, proper documentation of the alienation can then be used.  The Law Offices of Sandra Guzman-Salvado has the knowledge and experience to represent you in a custody or divorce case. We also have a list of criminal defense attorneys that are experienced and can help.  We provide our clients with honest advice in all custody and divorce matters and can provide options to best suit your situation.


[1] Douglas Darnall, PsyCare Inc, “Symptoms of Parental Alienation” (August 9, 2011).
[2] Farzad Family Law, “Parental Alienation is a Stalker. Learn How to Gain Awareness and Stop the Abuse,” 
[3] Edward Kruk, Psychology Today, “The Impact of Parental Alienation on Children” (April, 25, 2013).
[4] Richard A. Warshak, Dr. Richard A. Warshak, “What is Parental Alienation” (2013).

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