If you are in the process of getting a divorce or separating from your spouse, you already have a lot on your mind. Hopefully, you will not have the additional stress of being the target of parental alienation. However, here is what you need to know if you are…

What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation takes place when one parent tries to isolate a child and turn them against the other parent. Parental alienation occurs through both mental and verbal manipulation, and the other parent can lead your child to believe that you are the cause of all the problems related to the divorce and that you never loved them. 

Why is Parental Alienation A Problem For Mothers?

Your ex-spouse may be badmouthing you to your child, interfering with your time with your child, throwing out gifts and cards, arriving early to pick up your child, and dropping them off late.  These behaviors are all signs that your ex-spouse may be targeting you and trying to manipulate your child. 

This coercion is especially difficult if you are the custodial parent and your ex-spouse has weekend visitation. It is harder still if you have joint custody and your ex-spouse has more time with your child than you do. 

How Does A Child Who is Being Alienated Behave?

Your child may be exhibiting certain behaviors that can alert you to the fact that your child may be a victim of parental alienation. These behaviors include:

  1. Denigration Against You

Your child is showing signs of becoming obsessed with hatred for you—without any justifiable cause. 

  1. Absurd and/or Weak Reasons for Rejection

Your child may be objecting to things that other children their age would not normally reject, such as going to a place they like. 

  1. No Affection for You 

Your child may say such things as, “I love my father to death” or “I would do anything for my father.” Your child may talk about your ex-spouse and make them sound perfect.

  1. Denial that They Are Being Influenced

Your child will adamantly deny that they are being influenced by your ex-spouse and behave in a negative way toward you.

  1. Lack of Guilt

Your child may display a complete lack of guilt or remorse at how they are treating you. They may be lying or stealing from you and have no sense that they are behaving in a manner that is hurtful and wrong. 

  1. Unwavering Support for Your Ex-Spouse 

Even if you have evidence to show your child that your ex-spouse was in the wrong, your child will show unwavering support for your ex-spouse

What Does A Mother Need to Know About Parental Alienation?

It is vital that you educate yourself about parental alienation. Then you will not fall into the trap of thinking it could never happen to you, and you can prevent your child from being misdiagnosed by a professional therapist. 

An awareness of the signs of parental alienation is your first step toward being able to intervene if you believe you are the target of parental alienation.  If you suspect that your child is the victim of this alienation, you must get them to the right mental health professionals and seek out legal help from a qualified family law attorney in your state. 

How Could My Child Become Involved in Parental Alienation?

Dr. Richard A. Gardner, a forensic psychiatrist, was the first to coin the term parental alienation in the 1980s. He believed this type of alienation went way beyond brainwashing because the child had to participate in the alienation process.  Dr. Gardner found eight possible ways your child could be involved in parental alienation. They include:

  1. Your child starts using profane language or displays extremely oppositional behavior.
  2. Your child gives frivolous and/or weak reasons why they are so angry.
  3. Your child denies that anyone has instructed them to behave in this manner.
  4. Your child claims that they came up with the idea to denigrate you. 
  5. Your child feels the need to protect your ex-spouse.
  6. Your child describes scenarios that they have not actually experienced.
  7. Your child does not show any guilt about how they are acting toward you.
  8. Your child shows hatred toward your family or friends. 

What Can You Do About Parental Alienation?

The first step involves taking your child to a mental health professional who is experienced in parental alienation. Many psychiatrists and clinical psychologists have studied these kinds of disorders, so they can recognize and properly diagnose them.

Since some psychiatrists are forensic evaluators, they  are able to diagnose parental alienation by having you and your spouse take detailed tests, producing a case history, and using observation techniques.  

Once this process is completed, they will make a recommendation about the steps to take and write a detailed report.  After they write this report, nothing will happen unless you take legal steps to have the court intervene. 

You must make sure the psychiatrist’s report gets in front of a judge. This official must be convinced that parental alienation is taking place and that it is not in your child’s best interest to remain in that environment. 

How Can My Case of Parental Alienation Be Legally Resolved?

In most states, judges tend to be conservative in their orders about parental alienation, even if there is overwhelming evidence that it is taking place.

Many judges have been rather slow about placing serious sanctions on the parent who is alienating. Without the threats of heavy fines, jail time, or the loss of custody, the chances are slim that they can be stopped. 

However, more and more judges are starting to come around and take parental alienation seriously.  Your family law attorney should be able to build a strong case and show that parental alienation is taking place. 

Can Parental Alienation Be Reversed?

As your child ages, parental alienation can be reversed if they receive proper psychological treatment. However, it will not work if your ex-spouse’s behavior is not properly contained.

Because parental alienation is one of the most severe types of emotional child abuse, your child will have lasting scars and lose the chance to developnormally.  Furthermore, your child is at high risk of growing up to become an alienator.

How Can I Deal With Parental Alienation?

Some parents were able to successfully get primary custody of a child who was experiencing parental alienation. These parents did many of the following things:

  1. They took a comprehensive parenting course and stuck with it, in order to make sure their parenting skills were superior to their ex-spouse’s.
  2. They kept their emotions under control at all times and never retaliated. If you overreact, you are proving your ex-spouse to be correct by appearing to be unstable.
  3. They thought of giving up, but never did. They kept trying to get the court to realize how serious the matter was and give them primary custody.
  4. They were willing to spend the money to see it through to the end.
  5. They received assistance from a knowledgeable family law attorney, who had experience dealing with parental alienation.
  6. They learned the law and found out about the ways the court decisions in their state applied to their cases.
  7. They utilized the condemning report by the forensic evaluator/psychiatrist.
  8. They demonstrated they were reasonable and rational and always had the best interests of their child in mind. 
  9. They gave the court a parenting plan that showed the ways their child would be taken care of.
  10. They understood what parental alienation was and focused on what to do about it, as well as the ways they were being victimized. 
  11. They did not play the victim.
  12. They were proactive.
  13. They did not add to the problem. 
  14. They kept a diary of events that described what happened and when it happened. 
  15. They documented the parental alienation with evidence that was admissible in court. 
  16. They always showed up to pick up their child. 
  17. They focused on enjoying the company of their child and never talked to their child about the case. They always took the high road and never badmouthed the other parent. 
  18. They did not violate any court orders.


It can be extremely difficult to figure out parental alienation. It can even be challenging for professionals who work in the divorce field.  More importantly, it can be difficult for the court and other professionals to figure out how to stop it after you discover parental alienation is taking place. 

While being the victim of parental alienation is not easy, there is hope if you choose to take the high road and follow your family law attorney’s directions. If you are a mother who is being targeted by your ex-spouse, the most important things are to never give up and do everything in your power to win primary custody.