By Lloyd Skinner
Parental alienation is the pattern of behaviour which involves one parent acting in certain ways that undermine and denigrate the relationship of the other parent with the child. Alienating behaviours induced by a parent onto a child are usually done with the aim of having the ‘alienating’ parent spending more time with the child than the estranged parent.
Part of parental alienation is Resist Refuse Dynamics (RRD) which are the various factors that contribute to the unjustified rejection of a parent (Walter & Friedlander, 2010), which is usually the non-custodial parent.
The circumstances in which parental alienation and RRD arise usually occurs during periods of intense conflict and dispute between parents, parental custody proceedings, and where there is a history of family violence or estrangement of one party in the relationship. One parent may use these situations to actively or passively support the child to reject spending time with the other parent (Nestor, 2020).
There are several clinical and legal resolutions for RRD and parental alienation. Clinically, structured psychotherapy and therapeutic interventions that involve both the child and the parents that assist with reconciliation between the child ad the alienated parent. These interventions typically occur in an environment that involve family therapy, counselling, and mediation (Barton Family Lawyers, 2018).
Legally, Australian courts, whilst having a reticence to label parental behaviours as ‘alienating,’ have in certain circumstances, ordered a custody reversal, or change in the child’s primary residence (Wagner & Middlin, 2020). This happens when the court finds that there is a significant risk of harm to the child if the situation is permitted to continue.
This generally involves a temporary suspension of contact between the child and the alienating parent, in which time will be spend attending parental education and therapeutic interventions. This is followed by a supervised and phased re-introduction of contact between the child and the alienating parent (Walter & Friedlander, 2010).
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Barton Family Lawyers. (2018, March 11). Parental Alienation in Family Court Disputes – Impacts & remedies. https://www.bartonfamilylaw.com.au/parental-alienation/
Friedlander, S., & Walters, M. G. (2010). When a Child Rejects a Parent: Tailoring the Intervention to fit the Problem. Family Court Review, 48(1), 98–111. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-1617.2009.01291.x
Nestor, K. (2020, January 29). Study: Abusers use parental alienation to gain child contact. Stowe Family Law. https://www.stowefamilylaw.co.uk/blog/2020/01/29/study-finds-abusers-use-parental-alienation-to-gain-contact-with-children/
Wagner, L., & Middlin, A. (2020, September 5). What are the legal implications of parental alienation? Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers. https://www.familylawyersdw.com.au/what-are-the-legal-implications-of-parental-alienation/