What Is Parental Alienation Australia?

parents pulling child

Parental Alienation is a concerning phenomenon that occurs in family law disputes. This is where one parent, through various means, manipulates and turns a child against the other parent. It is a form of psychological abuse that can have devastating effects on the child and the targeted parent. In Australia, parental alienation is recognised as a serious issue, and there are legal measures in place to address it.

How to Fight Parental Alienation in Court?

If you are a victim of parental alienation in Australia, it is crucial to take legal action to protect your relationship with your child. You can fight parental alienation in court by seeking legal advice from a qualified child custody lawyer. The court may order a family report, which is prepared by a psychologist or social worker, to assess the situation and make recommendations for the best interests of the child.


Accordingly, it is important to gather evidence, such as emails, text messages, or recordings, that demonstrate the alienating behaviours of the other parent. The court may issue orders to prevent further alienation, such as orders for supervised visitation or counselling for the child and the alienating parent.

Can a Parent Lose Custody for Parental Alienation?

Yes, in Australia, a parent can lose custody or have their parenting time restricted if they are found to be engaging in parental alienation. The Family Law Act 1975, which governs family law matters in Australia, prioritises the best interests of the child. If a parent is found to be engaging in alienating behaviours that are harmful to the child’s relationship with the other parent, the court may modify custody arrangements to protect the child’s welfare. However, the court will always consider the individual circumstances of the case and the best interests of the child when making such decisions.


Moreover, the primary consideration in family law is the best interests of the child. This includes ensuring a meaningful relationship with both parents while protecting them from any form of harm, whether physical or psychological, such as abuse, neglect, emotional manipulation or family violence.


If you suspect that you are being targeted by your ex partner, you should first consider whether there is a reasonable explanation for the lack of contact with your child, and to take steps to rebuild the relationship. Continued lack of contact by you may exacerbate the issue. Consistency in spending time with your child, being involved in their daily routine, and maintaining weekend time is crucial.


If you have a good relationship with your ex-partner, you could request their assistance in facilitating additional time and contact with your child. Seeking parenting advice on your own can also help you develop better strategies for reconnecting with your child and changing the dynamics.


In cases where your relationship with your ex-partner is strained, or if you have already sought additional time but have been refused, you may consider attending mediation, with or without legal representation. Low-cost dispute resolution services offered by Relationships Australia and the Family Relationships Centre, or private mediators, can be valuable resources in resolving such matters.

What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a term coined by psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Gardner. It describes a set of behaviours exhibited by children who have been manipulated by one parent to reject the other parent, without any valid reason.


PAS is not officially recognised as a psychiatric disorder. However, it is a concept that has been used in family law cases to describe the harmful effects of parental alienation on children. PAS can manifest as a range of behaviours, including denigration of the targeted parent, lack of desire to spend time with the targeted parent, and aligning with the alienating parent’s views and feelings.


Some Cases of Parental Alienation


The Breakwell (2008), the Family Court discussed the issue of parental alienation. Ultimately, the court decided that the best interests of the child were the primary priority. The father had been seen to have estranged the mother from the children, while the mother had also had a negative impact. However, the father’s alienation and campaign of denigration of the mother proved to be more damaging to the children. In the end however, the court ruled that the child should primarily live with the father, as he provided a greater degree of stability to the children.


The court in Irish & Michelle [2009] FamCA 66, ruled that the children’s bond with their father was being harmed due to the mother’s attitude and her family’s encouragement of negative behaviour. This was deemed a sign of her inability to act with goodwill, prompting the judge to give both parents equal responsibility and stipulate that the children live with their father in Victoria and have holidays with their mother in Tasmania.


The court found that the father in Kinsella v Kinsella (2007) had wrongfully attempted to create a rift between the children and their mother, through deception and neglect of their psychological needs. As a result, the court ordered that the mother should have full custody of the children.

What are Examples of Parental Alienation?

Here are some various examples of parental alienation that can occur in the context of family law disputes. These may include:




One parent persistently badmouths or belittles the other parent in the presence of the child, making derogatory comments about their character, parenting abilities, and lifestyle.


Interference with Contact


One parent consistently undermines the child’s relationship with the other parent by cancelling visitation or making it difficult for the child to have contact with the targeted parent.


False Allegations


One parent fabricates or exaggerates allegations of abuse, sexual abuse, mental health issues or neglect against the other parent to turn the child against them.




One parent deliberately prevents the child from enjoying activities or events with the targeted parent or their extended family, such as birthdays, holidays, and family gatherings.




One parent places inappropriate emotional burdens on the child, making them feel responsible for their emotions or taking on the role of a confidante or ally against the other parent.

What to do if you are a parent the target of Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is a matter of great importance under Australian family law, and should be treated with utmost seriousness. If you are currently facing alienation and wish to address your concerns and find a resolution as quickly as possible. Reach out to the compassionate team of child custody lawyers in Sydney at Lyons Law Group. We are committed to assisting you in resolving any conflicts or representing you in court to seek a change in your child’s primary residence if necessary.

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