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Family Wars - The Alienation of Children
Composite case from actual examples

The parents of Amy (age 10) and Kevin (age 7) are divorcing after 13 years of marriage. Their father, by temporary stipulation, has moved from the marital home. He is entitled to visit with the children on alternating weekends and one evening, during the week. Soon, the children begin to refuse to go with him. At first, they do not want to leave Mom; they say that they are afraid to go. When Dad comes to the house, Mom tells him that she\he will "not force the children to go." "Visitation is up to them." and she\he will "not interfere in their decision". The children refuse to talk with him on the phone. Mom calls him names when he telephones and complains constantly about her financial situation, blaming him, all within hearing of the children.

Dad attempts to talk with the children about the situation, then to bribe them with movies, shopping trips, toys. They become more and more sullen with him and resistant to coming. Anything, routine doctor visits, invitations from a friend, a visit to Aunt Beth, serves as an excuse to avoid visits.

A court appointed guardian ad litem learns from the children that "Dad is abusive and mean to us. " They do not want to go on visits. However, when asked to give specific examples of how he is abusive, their stories are not convincing, "He yells too loud when we make noise." "He made me climb all the way to the top of a mountain." "He gets mad at me about my homework." "He makes me wear my bike helmet." "He pounds the wall to get us up in the morning and it makes me afraid that he'll hit me." They say that he has never hit them, although they state that they are very afraid that he will.

These children are in the process of becoming alienated from their father.

An increasing number of children are experiencing the divorce of their parents or litigation over their custody some time during their minority. Some children experience the concerted, albeit often unconscious or unintended, attempt of one parent to alienate them from their other parent. It is the purpose of this article to alert lawyers, judges and parents involved in divorce and custody wars to the serious nature of parental alienation and to provide suggestions for court based intervention.


  1. Definitions
  2. Harm to The Child
  3. Motivation for Alienation
  4. Recognition of Alienating Behaviors
    1. The Continuum
    2. Mild
    3. Moderate
    4. Overt
    5. Severe
  5. Prevention
    1. Education
    2. Attorneys
    3. Courts
  6. Intervention
    1. Mild Cases
    2. Moderate Cases
    3. The Parent Evaluation
  7. Conclusion


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