Parental Alienation … definitions and examples

A very simple definition:

Pathologically speaking, parental alienation occurs when a child has to turn away from the love of one parent in order not to lose the love of the other.

Justifiably speaking, parental alienation occurs when a child rejects a parent who has used committed grievous acts as a parent with ongoing use of drugs and alcohol, or has behaved in a systematic pattern of abusive behaviors.

Important links:



Ohio Law; More Law

Causes of parental alienation:

Parental Anger

The single most prevalent cause of parental alienation is sure to be parental anger.

In Ohio there is not much use is getting an attorney for a simple divorce where children are not at issue.  It used to be that courts had to judge how to settle a divorce based upon the criteria for the divorce.  Adultery, addictions, abuse, criminal activities and etc. were the bases for determining how much of an “award” the injured party would receive from the injuring party.  Therefore, the aggrieved spouse could hire a tough lawyer, and get his or her pound of flesh in the divorce settlement.

Today, settling a divorce is actually a matter of mathematics.  The basic formula is as such:  take everything that a couple has accumulated since the beginning of their marriage, divide it in half, and then give half to each.  Not much to fight about, and not much use in fighting.  Most divorce attorneys are able to predict the dollar amount of a settlement (whether contested or not) within two or three percent of the final figures.

So what about the anger.  How can the “aggrieved” party achieve a sense of “getting even?”

The answer is simple, convince him- or herself that the other does not deserve to have the children because the other is such a reprehensible person.  Now there is something to fight about, and there are clear outcomes for determining winners and losers.


Once a divorcing couple with disputes over the children seek out their respective attorneys, an adversarial situation is constructed in which the divorcing parties are immediately counseled, either implicitly or explicitly, not to trust the other. Consequently, they begin to act in ways that foster mistrust from the other (e.g., restraining orders, temporary custodial edicts, document requests, and so on).

Note: there is a video, entitle “Divorce Corp.” available for rent on Amazon that  unmasks the 50 billion dollar a year business of divorce and child custody in America.  Anyone contemplating a divorce should take a look at it.

The worst thing about getting an attorney to help with a divorce is the reality that the longer a divorce goes on, the more money there is to be made.  Thus, there is likely to be either a conscious or unconscious push on the part of some attorneys to urge their clients to keep fighting for a “better deal.”  This is not hard to do when working with a spouse who has been the victim of adultery or perceived spousal abuse.  The notion of “perceived spousal abuse” is noted here to differentiate from truly egregious spousal abuse.  Most victims of true abuse just want to get free of the abuser, and tend to be less invested in seeking retribution in court.

The Helpers

G.A.L.’s, C.A.S.A.’s, Social Workers, Therapists, Counselors and Psychologists  often become players in these modern American dramas.  These are the helpers, the ones who are there to protect and serve the well-being of the children who become their clients.

Many people make a part of their livings by aligning themselves with one side of a child custody case.  Often, a child will be brought to a helper because that child is aggressively acting-out or is inwardly withdrawn as a result of what is going on between the parents.  Advocating for these children is an excruciatingly difficult task in that the helper often commits him- or herself to choosing sides as part of helping the child.

One of the greatest pitfalls of the role of helpers is the matter of bias.  Unlike attorneys who advocate and fight for their specific client, helpers must see the child’s situation much more completely, and must avoid the notion of winning.  When a helper hears only one side of a family story, it is easy to fall prey to the self-righteousness of the person telling the story.  Many helpers have had to come to terms with the realization that “he (or she) is nothing like I expected,” once they have had the opportunity to meet and talk with the “other side.”

The Victims:

The Children

Clearly, the truest victims in these situations are the children.  It is a fact that children’s minds can be swayed against one or the other parent by one parent or the other.  Many children do not develop the ability to think completely freely about and for themselves until they reach early adulthood, and some don’t achieve it by then.

Children are affected in several distinguishable ways.  They can be fearful, and therefore affected by the more angry parent; they can be loving and caring, and thus affected by the more needy parent; they can be self-serving and control oriented, and consequently affected by the more powerful parent.  Alienation occurs when a parent either vies for, or allows, their child or children to come over to his or her side against the other.

The outcome of these machinations is one of two dynamics: fear or power.

The fearful child will yield to to the more powerful, often less conscionable, parent, and will reject the other because of the anticipated retribution that would accompany seeing the other parent as good or worthy.  These rebukes can be in the form of mild put-downs, outright declarations, or angry incantations.  In any case, the child learns that loving the other parent is something to be avoided.

The power oriented child will use the dislike of the more powerful (or more dominant) parent to overpower the other parent.  These children will deliberately disobey the other parent (usually the noncustodial parent) to feel the power that comes with victory over someone who is not to be defeated.   These children often spark angry reactions within the target parent, and then precipitate angry, sometimes violent, reactions from that parent.  This has the natural effect of causing the custodial parent to believe in the righteousness of his or her condemnations of the other parent, and the cycle persists.

Both of the above dynamics give parents and attorneys a great deal of material for prolonging the battle for “justice” for the future of their child or children.

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