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Parental Alienation Syndrome

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 26 Apr 2017 | comments*Discuss
Divorce Children Parental Alienation

At its heart, Parental Alienation Syndrome, or PAS, is quite simple: it’s where one parents attempts to turn the children against the other parent. Where divorces are less than amicable, it’s sadly not uncommon, and generally used by mothers in an attempt to ensure little or no contact between their exes and children.

Done subtly it can be hard to prove, and at its worst it can produce allegations of child abuse against the fathers. Even when not pressed to those extremes, it causes anguish for thousands of men (which isn’t to say fathers haven’t used it against mothers, but in general it’s mothers who are the perpetrators).

In court the result can be devastating, resulting in minimal or no contact for fathers.

How it Works

PAS is a kind of brainwashing. If the parent with custody can convince the child that it doesn’t want anything to do with the father, that carries weight in court, since one of the factors taken into account regarding contact is the wishes of the child. For obvious reasons, it works better with younger children, who are more easily swayed and subject to emotional pressures. In difficult situations they naturally want to please the parent they’re with.

It can happen for any number of reasons, from fear of losing the children to the other parent to revenge, and many things in between, some easy to analyse, others not. Trying to establish the root cause can often be impossible.

Is it Legal?

If it could be proven that a parent had used PAS, there could be legal repercussions. In practice, however, establishing that can very difficult. Using it on a child is a form of abuse in medical terms, and legally it becomes a type of coaching, both of which are illegal.

What would tend to happen, though, is that the custodial parent’s assertions of the child’s wishes would end up being ignored when it came to contact. A few courts might order family therapy, but would be unlikely to prosecute beyond that. That said, authorities do recognise it happens.

What Can the Victim do?

For the victim, generally the father, to prove PAS is very difficult. You’ll need a good solicitor, a Child Welfare Officer who’s willing to go beyond the surface to investigate your side of the story, and the willingness to pursue this, probably at County Court level, which means expense.

You’ll need extensive notes on conversations with the other parent, a diary of time spent with the children and their excuses for not spending time with you. Note instances where the other parent has gone to schools or clubs to say you should have no contact with your children there (if that has happened), or if the other parent has stopped the child communicating with other members of your family (or if the child has said that’s what he or she wishes).

The stronger the body of evidence you can build, the greater your chances of proving PAS and re-establishing contact. The problem, though, is that eventually the children can believe it really is their wish not to see you.

Where there is a contact order, try to make sure you see your kids. It keeps a line open, and acts as assurance that they don’t really hate you. It also opens the door for more contact. If it’s possible to keep communication with the mother – which in many cases it won’t be – then do so; minds can change, and it all becomes more ammunition if you have to go to court.

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@shocked female - According to the Office of National Statistics, women still account for 92 per cent of lone parents with dependent children and men account for 8 per cent of lone parents with dependent children (2011). Therefore,it happens that men are still very much on the receiving end of PAS. Of course, yes, you are absolutely correct, women can be on the recieving end of PAS also, and our article does state that PAS is where 'one parents attempts to turn the children against the other parent', the rest is used as an generalised example piece. But many thanks for your comments, they have been taken on board.
DivorceResource - 31-Oct-14 @ 11:38 AM
I was shocked to read this article, I work with many, many women, some who come from domestic violence cases, and some women who consider they were originally in mariages which were "healthy functioning",whereby the woman is the one who has been alienated from her children after separation or divorce.I felt that this article was such an unfair judgement and biased towards men instead of staying neutral.The article itself is so true to form in respect of the damage caused to the children, it was such a pity it was spoiledby such a generalised bias against women - I would conclude that in my experience this can equally happen to women as well as men and is absolutely horrendous for either men OR WOMEN to be on the receiving end of this.It is so important to raise awareness of this syndrome for the sake of the children who are often emotionally abused and torn apart by this syndrome, but please can we campaign from a more neutral perspective and not gender specific, that it is mostly women that are the perpetrators.
Shocked female - 30-Oct-14 @ 5:21 PM
Shockingly, this sort of thing whereby mothers deliberately alienate children against ex partners is surprisingly common.How else is it that one in three children have little or no contact with their fathers after a divorce?? My uncle went through a very nasty divorce in the early 1990s, his ex-wife made it very hard for him to see his children [my cousins]; and eventually his ex-wife succeeded in completely turning his daughter against him:Only recently, now that his children have grown up has my uncle managed to part-re-establish that relationship.Also, several years ago, there was a family that went to our local church who went through a divorce, the father- ostracised from his family- committed suicide (and the family were Christians- supposedly!!).I also know of countless other examples from Britain in recent years. If there is justice in the world women who set out to turn their kids against their fathers after separation- should lose custody of their children:Feminism has gone far too far in this country, it is very much men who are maligned and discriminated against (esp. in Family Courts!).The Campaign Group Fathers4Justice would do well to campaign against Parental Alienation Syndrome (or more aptly, since it is mothers who get custody of their children in 95% of contested divorces it is Father Alienation Syndrome);- perhaps they should draw up a list of the worst offending mothers- to be named and shamed- and for them (and their hate-filled little darlings) to be publicly excoriated!! Poisonous, divorcing women are a blight on this nation!
Ian Pennell - 3-Oct-13 @ 10:46 PM
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