Living With The Alienator: Parental Alienation as Coercive Control in Five Easy To Understand Steps

I work with social workers a lot.  I also work with CAFCASS (GAL’s for our stateside readers) and I teach and train psychotherapists, psychologists and others in the psychological helping therapies about how to work with alienated children and their families.   Most of the people I work with are aware of parental alienation and are aware that the behaviours they are seeing in the families they are working with are unusual and most know that there is something deeply wrong in the dynamic.  What they don’t know is what to do about it, how to formulate their views and how to plan and deliver an intervention which assists the child.   As part of our training to Local Authority teams and CAFCASS in the UK and to professionals developing their practice in Europe, we deliver a three day training which focuses upon the what, why and how of parental alienation.  Part of that three day training is the breaking down into easy to understand stages, of the underlying dynamics which are present in parental alienation, one of which is parental alienation as coercive control.  I thought I would share this one with you today because it is a really easy way of helping professionals to ‘get’ the reality of what is happening to the child and why it is important to intervene in cases of parental alienation.

Here then is Living With The Alienator: Parental Alienation as Coercive Control in Five, easy to understand steps.

  1. Coercive control is a term developed by Evan Stark to help us understand domestic abuse as more than a “fight”. It is a pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away the victim’s liberty or freedom, to strip away their sense of self.
  2. Parental alienation is the process, and the result, of the psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent or other family members. The behaviours seen in alienating parents, undermines core principles of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is viewed as a particularly adverse childhood experience which results in significantly increased risks of both mental and physical illness for children.
  3. Parental Alienation is coercive control of a child for the purpose of restricting or restraining the child’s relationship with their other parent after family separation.
  4. In order to convince others that the child is speaking their own mind an alienating parent will use distraction and manipulation of other people’s views of the targeted parent. This is the same as gaslighting behaviour seen in domestic violence situations where a perpetrator will convince the victim that they are the problem. In parental alienation situations, the perpetrator triangulates others into believing that the targeted parent is the cause of the children’s rejection.
  5. A child who is being coercively controlled by a parent using alienating strategies will completely reject the target parent using a clear set of recognisable behaviours. This is the child’s only way of signalling to the outside world that they are in danger.

When professionals understand the nature of the risk to the child they are more easily connected to the how to part of the training we deliver.  The how to part of the training concentrates on engaging the professional with the input they can offer using the power they possess to intervene. These are the steps we use to engage professionals with the power they possess to intervene.

Arrest the coercive control of the child

When a child is signalling for help using the signs of parental alienation, care must be taken to recognise the predicament that the child is in.  A child should not be asked or invited or persuaded to do anything which will cause the alienating parent to escalate their control of the child without first ensuring that the alienating parent’s behaviours are controlled externally by the court or by your intervention.

Use the power that you have to confront the coercive control and arrest it. If you are a social worker use the powers available to you to protect the child. If you are a psychotherapist or a psychologist, confront the coercive control in your reporting to court and ask the court to arrest it.  Do not attempt to arrest coercive control outside of your use of the powers available to you, especially if you are concerned about the mental health of the parent using the behaviours to control the child.

Arresting the control of the child is about constructing clear interventions with appropriate orders from the court to assist you.

Reassure the child

A child who is being coercivelly controlled is not going to be able to speak openly to you about what is happening. For many the reality of what is happening is outside of their conscious mind because they are using a coping mechanism to help to keep them safe.  Nevertheless you must speak to the part of the child who is aware that what is happening to them is wrong. You do this by showing the child that you are able to prevent what is happening using the power that you have. Additionally you do this by bringing the split off and rejected parent into the work you are doing with the child. By confronting the child with the reality of the  split off and rejected parent and showing the child that you can manage the controlling parent’s behaviours, you reassure the child that there is hope and that someone can and will intervene.

Prepare for the reunification of the child using the powers available to you

Do not wait to confront the child with the parent they have been rejecting. As soon as you have been able to constrain the behaviours of the alienating parent, bring the child and targeted parent together for the purpose of reunification.  The child will receive much relief from this intervention and you will be able to observe the way in which the alienation disappears when the dynamic which causes it (coercive control) is removed.  Remember that the coercive control dynamic must continue to be controlled through the powers you possess if you are a social worker or through the courts.  An alienating parent may not be able to change their behaviours and if the child returns to showing signs of alienation after your intervention, it is a clear flag that further investigation of the alienating parent is required.

The use of allegations of parental alienation as coercive control

The problem with using the label parental alienation is that there are groups representing parents who claim it for their own and this can cause confusion when you are attempting to differentiate and identify whether the child is signalling coercive control as parental alienation or justifiable reasons for rejecting a parent.  There will be, amongst the families you work with, a number of parents who will claim they are being alienated when in fact they are not.  This is why examination of the parent claiming to be targeted by parental alienation is so crucial.  The difference between a parent who is claiming to be a target and one who really is lies in their behaviours and in the signals the child is giving. A claim of parental alienation which is being used as a coercive control tool is usually made in a fixed and rigid manner and is aggressively and relentlessly pursued. A parent who seeks to control you as the professional and who is seen to be unable to reflect and consider other view points may be using the claim of pa.

One has to be careful in these circumstances because targeted parents do become, at times, fixated, angry, upset and relentless in their belief that they are being alienated.

The comparison of the parent’s behaviours with the child’s signals will help you to further finesse your formulation. A child who is using justifiable reasoning will be able to describe those things that cause them to reject a parent and will not be so completely fixed in their thinking that they cannot consider other viewpoints.  It is the comparison of the child’s behaviours with the behaviours of the parent accused of alienation and the target parent’s behaviours which enable you to make decisions.

Not every parent who says they are rejected because of parental alienation actually is.  Allegations of parental alienation are used by coercively controlling parents who seek to remove children from a parent as well as by parents who seek to control a child in order to ensure the ejection of a parent from the child’s life.  Working out the ways in which the child is being affected is a critical skill in order to avoid being triangulated into the existing dynamic between parents.

Living With the Alienator: Parental Alienation as Coercive Control is a module in our three day training is delivered in the UK, Europe and from October will be available in the USA and Canada.

As part of our work to help parents to help themselves we will be making our understanding all aspects of parental alienation in five easy steps series available for download on our new self help site Parental Alienation Direct.

Our one day training in London is now full, to go onto the waiting list for the next one day training please email




46 thoughts on “Living With The Alienator: Parental Alienation as Coercive Control in Five Easy To Understand Steps

  1. The last four paragraphs are absolutely spot on in our case, Karen, and I am so glad to see you flag up for the professionals working in the PA field how to recognise allegations of PA being used in coercive control. It can be very hard to differentiate between actual alienation, and a genuine reluctance on the part of the child to submit to contact with a clever high-functioning controlling abuser, who is adept at deceiving the authorities.


    1. this differentiation is one of the most complex to get right and it is made a lot harder by the parental rights groups in my experience and the way they present pa as a contact issue. In my view anyone who is working in this field should not be associated with the parental rights lobby groups, i moved away from my associations when I understood that there are people out there who will use those groups and triangulate them into the coercive control dynamic by getting them to believe that they are alienated when in fact they are using alienation as an argument to control a parent. I think I always knew that this was a possibility but I saw it very clearly in a few cases over the past years and as an expert in the field when I say it is not alienation but it is being used to construct a case and further coercive control I need to be able to say it free of the fear that in doing so I will be harmed as a professional by those parents seeking to enact revenge. I am uncompromising in my work to assist children and some parents I have considered to be not alienated have used others associated with these groups by triangulating them into efforts to damage my work. But I am not a hired gun, I do not work for parents I work for children and I will not compromise my principles in order to satisfy a lobby group or individuals who make use of such lobby groups to further their personal agenda. If I consider a parent is not alienated it is because I have completed an indepth analysis of the case and I have been able to clearly set out the formulation and reasoning. I do not do this lightly but neither do I ever conclude it is parental alienation lightly either. This is why this issue must be removed from the parental rights field where it does not belong because these organisations on both side of the argument are readily triangulated into the dynamic.


      1. I wish it was called Child Alienation.
        I want the focus to be on the alienation of the child from their family, not my loss as a parent.


  2. Having lived with one for many years, I wish I knew then what I know now.

    Being isolated from family and friends gradually over time would have set alarm bells ringing, and given me a huge clue as to what was to come!


    1. Yes for those who know the signs living with the alienator can be prevented from becoming the nightmare it eventually unfolds to be. Getting awareness of PA as coercive control out there into the wider world will help prevent more people from suffering.


  3. Do you know of any good protocol used to assess these more complex cases? Sometimes the cases are so complex that the alienation aware professionals will disagree, and it would be helpful for such an assessment to be used to determine whether or not an alienation claim is valid or justifiable rejection. Often I believe the justifiable rejections are more hybrid cases, where the child has a reason to have an issue with a parent, but the alienating parent has managed to magnify that issue.


    1. The differentiation has to be absolutely right Amy and in hybrid cases where it can look like a child is justifiably rejecting it is vital to spend a lot of time examining the behaviours of the parent who is being rejected as well as the behaviours of the child. I usually have the child and parent they are rejecting in the same room as part of the assessment, as it becomes very clear from observation whether or not there is any justification in the child’s statements. It is also becomes clear in the relationship the parent has with me whether or not there is any justification, I put parents through a lot of different observations and tasks and work intensively, spending a lot of time with a parent in order to arrive at a decision if I think it is a case of parental alienation. We use a combination of psychological testing if we think there are personality disorders at play plus projective tests, combined interviews and situational assessmentand observations. Nothing beats differentiating between justified and unjustified rejection however than the manner in which the child displays the eight signs of alienation. To this day those signs are incredibly clear in true cases of parental alienation and where the rejection has a justified basis those signs just are not there in the same way. As a gateway to decision making about justified/unjustified I think those eight signs are still the place to begin. What happens afterwards is about designing the intervention which will assist in the shifting of the dynamic.


  4. Oh lordy Karen, every time you write a Post I am brimming over with questions!

    First, Parental Alienation Direct….when do you think this will be live?

    Second, what strikes me from your Post above is where you write…….
    “A child who is being coercivelly controlled is not going to be able to speak openly to you about what is happening.”……professionals please take note!! How you interpret their reticence could dictate how this child(ren)’s life turns out. And then further on you write “A child who is using justifiable reasoning will be able to describe those things that cause them to reject a parent and will not be so completely fixed in their thinking that they cannot consider other viewpoints.”. Yet when the child(ren) is subject to coercive control and hence has learnt to be fearful of their controller, they, despite having ‘justifiable reasons’, will surely still struggle to speak to anyone about it, even to the target parent. If the child does manage to tell the target parent at least some of their experiences, and this target parent then tries to act as a go between spokesperson between professionals and the child(ren), relaying what the child(ren) has told them, that parent is risking being seen as having “coached” or instilled ‘false memories’ etc into the child, in turn causing them to be then perceived as the alienator and because of that viewpoint anything they say the child has said, is disregarded by professionals, indeed blackens them further and just digs a deeper hole for themselves. Especially as you say that once the child has rejected a parent, the AP” in order to convince others that the child is speaking their own mind an alienating parent will use distraction and manipulation of other people’s views of the targeted parent.” And “In parental alienation situations, the perpetrator triangulates others into believing that the targeted parent is the cause of the children’s rejection” …..this despite often originally claiming that they themselves are the victims of PA. The twists and turns of these kinds of manipulative, controlling minds is so beyond my ken as to be almost unbelievable. I feel like an innocent to the slaughter. You write that “A child should not be asked or invited or persuaded to do anything which will cause the alienating parent to escalate their control of the child” yet if the wrong parent is identified as the ‘alienator’, these same professionals are walking into the real alienator’s trap and handing that parent full opportunity and support to continue and escalate the unseen, missed, coercive control. I guess I’m sending out a plea to any professionals walking into this minefield to stop, remember appearances can be deceptive, and spend real time and focus on properly analysing the whole family dynamics and each person in it, starting from the beginning, not part way through the family’s story, and if in doubt, be humble enough to recognise your limitations and seek input from those with real experience and expertise in this field…..please remember, parents and kids are relying on you to get it right and not destroy them body and soul….


  5. From your reply to Amy above… “Nothing beats differentiating between justified and unjustified rejection however than the manner in which the child displays the eight signs of alienation. To this day those signs are incredibly clear in true cases of parental alienation and where the rejection has a justified basis those signs just are not there in the same way.”

    I notice that in the way you have worded this you speak of the “manner in which the child displays the eight signs of alienation” rather than just whether they are present or absent. You further emphasize this when you say “those signs just are not there in the same way”. I guess it takes a trained experienced eye to notice the “manner” in which the signs present but could you expand on this with an example or two? Your help always appreciated.

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    1. The manner in which the child displays the signs is extremely clear SS and is only seen in cases of parental alienation. Whilst I would not assess a case as alienation purely on those signs, those signs are the clear indicator that psychological splitting is being used by the child. It is the manner in which those signs are displayed which allows me to determine how the child will respond to an intervention. A child who is severely alienated will be easy to reunite if all eight signs are present but it is particularly the quality of the brittle presentation and the level of mirroring between alienating parent and child which denotes the likely response. A good example to give you is this (it is disguised to protect the family and child). A child once told me that being with mum was like being with an evil spirit. The child was six years old. When I asked the child to explain what an evil spirit was the child said ‘like mum.’ When I asked what was mum like the child said ‘like an evil spirit.’ a) what is a child of six doing likening their mother to an evil spirit? b) what child of six could tell you what an evil spirit was and if they could where would they get that information from? c) when the child can do nothing but repeat the same litany of complaint – being with mum is like being with an evil spirit. That is the brittle presentation and the weak reasoning. This same child told me stories about how his mother tried to kill him when he was inside her, a story which his father repeated telling me the child’s mother hadn’t wanted him and was going to have an abortion until he stopped her. This is the use of borrowed scenarios, the child had heard the story from his father and was using it as evidence to prove to me his mother was a bad person. This same child then told me that no-one has made him say this, the child had worked it all out for themself and was big enough to know that this was the truth – the independent thinker. The child had rejected the whole of mother’s family and mother’s friends and considered them evil too. The child showed no guilt about the cruelty shown towards mother and was utterly captivated by father totally aligned with him and automatically agreed with everything he said. The signs were utterly clear and I Knew without a shadow of a doubt that if this small child were separated from the source of the influence the alienation would disappear. We moved the child to foster care for one night and then brough mother to the foster carer’s house. We took the child for a walk with mother and in the park the child let mother push the swing and then buy an icecream and then hug and then kiss and then suddenly the child retracted everything said and said I am sorry I didn’t mean it and cried for an hour. Mother held the child and reassured the child and took the child home, a place the child had not been for two years. The child lives with mother now and father has remarried and has nothing to do with the child.

      Thi s was a case of pure alienation which is easy to treat it is an example of how the signs are strong in pure alienation and thus easy to build an intervention for. The cases get less easy the older the child and the more complex the dynamic but this is just an example.


      1. Thank you Karen for this expanded reply. So much to reflect on….
        On your point that “A child who is being coercivelly controlled is not going to be able to speak openly to you about what is happening”, I wonder what you would expect a professional to do faced with a child reticent to open up to them? There seems to be a fine line between being acceptably ‘encouraging’ to the child(ren) and undesirable ‘coaching’ or being pressurising. My experiences revealed to me a frustrating attitude from professionals that a child would of course open up to them simply because of who they were, and if the child wouldn’t, to then speculate that that must be the fault of the parent who has encouraged/ influenced the child to mistrust them! It seemed at times that they could interpret anything in a way to exonerate themselves and use the parent as the dumping ground for anything negative/ undesirable. A situation in which a parent can only drown…..


      2. Hi Karen,
        It has been a long 2 years of research to understand they dynamics of what I have been through and if I didnt know better, I would be one of the alienated targets that gives up and puts distance between me and my sons mother at the expense of my relationship with my son. I was curious though if you have ever run into what I am dealing with. Basically, I know the pathology exists in my situation and efforts are being made to alienate me from my son as well as put me in jail for things that never happened. I realize you are taking me at my word here but my intuition has been proven right along this discovery thus far and while my son is desperate for more time with me, your profile of the alienated child fits the description of his mother perfectly. In fact, I know enough to know that she was alienated from her father and had started working through this and the following abandonment from her mother in therapy prior to our sons birth. Her mother,(my sons grandmother) is what seems to be driving my ex to continue doing the damage to my son and also was the one who convinced her that I was some psychopath trying to control her. The encapsulated persecutors delusion of me as an abuser seems to have originated from the grandmother and the courts have been convinced of this narrative. It is completely false and while my son who is 4 seems to be holding strong to his loving bond to me, he is constantly getting the hurtful aspects of coersive control and brainwashing and it is easy to see how this would end in him splitting me as the bad person, his mom as the victim. I’m convinced that my ex is being controlled by her mother and suffering from the impact of the alienation she suffered as a child as well as the cognitive dissonance of what she is doing to my and our family, versus the happy close and supportive unit we were. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.


  6. Karen, in this Post you have written “Nothing beats differentiating between justified and unjustified rejection however than the manner in which the child displays the eight signs of alienation. To this day those signs are incredibly clear in true cases of parental alienation and where the rejection has a justified basis those signs just are not there in the same way.”

    In your Post of Jan 7 2017 “Working with the intrapsychic experience of the alienated child” you also emphasised the importance of Gardner’s ‘8 signs of Alienation’. Given this, what strikes me is that in any case where PA is alleged why are the courts not insisting/ specifying that evidence is put forward to support the presence of these signs? And specifying that anyone who does so demonstrates why they are qualified to do so? In those occasions when I did have legal representation, not once did they mention these diagnostic signs to me or request that the other side put forward evidence for them. Can you offer any insight into why this is not happening in UK courts as standard?


    1. Hi SS it is a long and sorry story to be honest. I Can tell it but it takes time. Will try in short steps a) there has been no interest in pa for decades b) where there was interest the feminist lobby groups shut it down as being about dangerous fathers c) feminist lobby groups have controlled family policy and practice for the past five decades d) efforts to raise awareness have fallen on deaf ears until the last two years when suddenly everyone is interested in it. e) that everyone is interested in it appears to be because the only cases left in court are pa cases f) so now we have a chance to raise consciousness and force the UK to understand PA properly – until then there will be piecemeal efforts to raise awareness and some people will not work to the international standards known to work and some will be too scared in case they get complained about and so it will continue to be postcode lottery in terms of the help people receive. Behind the scenes we are working with leading people to establish protocols and we have established a research programme to build an evidence base to work from. There is much to do and a lot of opposition to it from many quarters, including those who profess to be alienation aware. k


      1. Thank you Karen for that knowledgeable insight. Perhaps parents, having educated themselves, need to start demanding more from their legal representation to push this into the court room? I wonder if you are aware of any particular MPs in UK who have an interest in this and to whom parents could address their concerns directly, in addition to their own MP (whoever that will be after general election!)?


  7. On a broader note can you offer any insight into what lies behind a person’s need to exercise coercive control? In your earlier Post this month “Alienation in 5 easy steps” you wrote that “The underlying drivers of this behaviour are jealousy, low self esteem, lack of self awareness and often rage. These behaviours are common in parents who separate but they can become apparent in anyone who is in a position where they are consciously or unconsciously competing with a target. The issue is that what the alienator cannot see is that their projections onto the target are distorted reflections of their own hidden issues, which is why many parents who become targets find themselves labelled with those behavioural traits which really belong to the alienator. Put simply, what the alienator cannot own in themselves, they see in the target and this enrages them to the point where they feel justified in doing harm. Discomfort with one’s own deficiencies is at the heart of many alienation scenarios. The target being an innocent recipient of the defences used by the alienator to avoid self awareness.”. Do these ‘ deficiencies’ also lie at the heart of ‘coercive control’?


  8. Although it isn’t listed under ‘Related posts’, I recommend the Post “PA:Coercive Control or Children’s Choices” Feb 1,2016


  9. How does the target parent convince the Courts to use your services if they truly believe alienation is at play? The Courts are aware something is going on but are in no hurry to resolve it.


      1. We are waiting on Cafcass deciding whether a psychologist is required. Cafcass have already said that the child had been put through enough and ruled out a psychologist because the Alienator has taken the child to a private Counsellor trying to back up her reasons for her stopping contact (claiming child is terrified of target parent when good contact has already taken place) and the counsellor has written a report based on the hearsay from the Alienator and submitted it to Court. The Courts have asked for a resubmission of the report based on facts alone and Cafcass will again decide whether a psychologist is required. The Courts did say that anyone could involve a psychologist but there is no way the Alienator will allow the child to be seen by anyone unless it’s at her request and her decision.


  10. It was a strange kind of relationship in some ways; but in others it appeared quite normal.

    It seemed to work and a healthy balance of perspective presided. Freedom of thought was safe in the heart of the vulnerable. A sense sat comfortably amongst the triangulation of alienator, target and the vulnerable.

    Every now and again John would pass his former partner Jane, because they lived in the same village, her on foot and him in his car. It was practically impossible to avoid each other. In the early years John remembered feeling very angry and having thoughts about running Jane over to erase all the problems she was causing.

    Even today Jane would ignore John blanking him out with that stern disapproving look, as if to say John was not worthy of her recognition. John thought this a shame because, after all, they had brought two children into the world.

    Yesterday John was turning left up the High street and Jane and their daughter, Clare were crossing the road in front of him. They were out walking the dog. John raised his hand from the steering wheel to acknowledge them but he was blanked out by them both. It was as if he just didn’t exist.
    John knew how difficult it must be for Jane to shake off the demons that prevented her from letting bygones be bygones. But Clare; why had she blanked him off as well? Hadn’t he picked Clare up from the station the other day; she was fine then; he’d even received a friendly hug from her.
    John shouldn’t have been surprised. If he had studied the work book on alienation he would have had more sympathy for Clare’s predicament. When Clare was with her mother (the alienator) it would be impossible for her to accept her father as one of the family because this would incur the wrath of her mother. Clare had to go along with her mother’s perspective to survive in her company.

    There is a further twist to this story. The next day, on seeing Clare, unprompted she apologised to her father for not acknowledging him when she saw him on the High Street. “No worries”, said John. He was very proud of his daughter and amazed that she was brave enough to acknowledge that she had seen him and not felt able to respond. Clare had protected her mother’s feelings (the alienator) and at the same time felt able to acknowledge this to her father.

    Could it be that John was raising an emotionally intelligent child?

    John thought it was a bit like that family he remembered who spent half the year in France and the other in England. Bi-lingual children and bi-cultural children but healthy none the less.


  11. Thanks for the post Karen. As usual, when you write so clearly and so simply about the simple signs a child will show, and how they will display very high levels of unwarranted resistance to a normal relationship it, literally, makes me weep. It’s taken a couple of days for the waves of frustration and futility that I often feel when I read your words, to mostly subside. Again, I have the almost overwhelming urge to cut and paste some of your comments into a letter that I’ve drafted in my head a hundred times, to the Guardian who condemned my husband to no direct contact 2.5 yrs ago. I want to write to him to let him know how’s its worked out. How his recommendation that the child’s mother remind the child of happier previous times doesn’t seem to have happened, although how would anyone know, when there’s no process to follow up these ‘recommendations’. How his recommendation that she re-inforce to the child that he has two loving parents seems at odds with how she has been silent to my husband’s requests for contact and updates about their son (other than to email for money of course – that’s the only topic she wants to discuss). That his view that the child just needs some time away from this ‘saga’ (what a loaded, unprofessional word to use in a court document – did he talk about it in those terms to the child?) has in reality meant that the child has had no contact, at all, with one half of his family for years now, as the mother has excised everyone on that side.
    I want to ask the guardian how he went from saying he could do anything, and how he ‘worked outside the box’, to get to the bottom of what was going on, and even take the child and his father away camping if he thought that was helpful – to not even getting the child and his father in the same room, because he was taken in by the mother’s ‘vulnerability’ and by the child’s over-vehement need to not see his father. I want to ask why he thought it was appropriate to say the child felt he needed to protect his mother and should be applauded/praised for that. I want to ask why the warning signs that clearly and strongly matched all 8 PA signs were ignored. I want to ask why he didn’t even use the CAFCASS guidelines and toolkit for assessing and recognising parental influence. I want to ask was it because he was leaving CAFCASS (two weeks after the final court hearing) and he needed to clear his workload? I want to ask was it because following what they child said they ‘wanted’ meant he could tick the box that said he ‘listened to the child and acted upon their wishes’.
    I feel these things Karen because its so very very clear that this is a crazy situation. Its so easy to see its not normal for a child to speak and behave as he did, and that the mothers lack of contact with the father, and high level of hostility shown by her (and not matched in return) was so evident. So why was it ignored. Why was a child left without a father, when all the evidence showed that this was what would result from a ‘no direct contact’. Why can you put that kind of sentence in place with no plan for parole? Why can the system allow an order with no plan to follow it up to review and see the effects?
    As you say Karen, in years to come this will be the next child sex abuse scandal to be revealed – I hope we’re reunited long before then.


    1. I hope so too CG, I see in your words and hear the narrative of so many frustration and grieving families, the loss of a child who is still living is an intolerable burden to bear and to have to bear it because of the ineptitude of the services supposed to help families is an even harder burden. I know that some children will, when they are older, find it harder to reunite with a parent because of the actions of inept Guardians. I hope the question ‘what have you actually done to promote contact’ is one that will become mandatory for all Guardians and CAFCASS officers one day. It is getting better but the complex ptsd you and yours have suffered is mirrored around the world by desperately sad parents and grandparents and it is a grievous generational wrong which will one day be exposed. I hope I am able to contribute to that and see the day when everyone working with this problem in children which is actually a psychological maladjustment to divorce and separation, knows exactly how to deal with it. sending you both my support. Kx


      1. Thanks for your comments Karen, but why do you say ‘I know that some children will, when they are older, find it harder to reunite with a parent because of the actions of inept Guardians.’ I know my own view is that the inept guardian in our case reinforced for the child the feeling that I believe he must have had, that no-one could help him. Do you mean something different and if so what?


    2. CG..I really can’t find the words to express my sadness at your comment and ‘story’ …..Karen’s compassionate reply says it all. CG you write about “CAFCASS guidelines and toolkit for assessing and recognising parental influence”…..I am ignorant of these….could you point me in the right direction as to where to read up on these please? The more knowledgeable I am in these things the better.


      1. Dear Sadsam, thank you for your kind comments. The document I referred to is one of two CAFCASS had at the point we were involved with them. They have a larger range of resources now. I looked on their website today and was heartened by at least the increase in resources available for practitioners, although you still have to have practitioners use them, and additionally be trained adequately, so I hope the resources are having an effect that certainly was absent a couple of years ago. The one I mentioned is called the ‘Impact Of Parental Conflict Tool’ and is here
        They also had a document called ‘Coached Children Knowledge Bite’. If you google it you’ll find it as the result of a freedom of information request. Best wishes


  12. Karen yesterday the background was burgundy, now it’s black. BOTH are fine. I’d quit while you are ahead 🙂


  13. Excellent and insightful, Karen. Would cause a sea change for the better for children if PA (the real thing as you have distinguished here) was recognised in legislation as a form of Coercive Control. Sadly, that is unlikely to happen any time soon for the simple reason that it would become a criminal offense requiring that something be done, other than removing the alienated parent; usually, but not exclusively, the dad (some of the worst alienating behaviour we have come across has been perpetrated by fathers with residence).
    Shared on:


  14. David : (some of the worst alienating behaviour we have come across has been perpetrated by fathers with residence).

    That’s interesting in view of what went on in our intact family.


  15. I read your paper with great interest and sadness. I am a grandparent who has been alienated by the mother and stepfather. It has been a long and extremely difficult journey and we no longer see our granddaughter who will be 13 in a couple of months time. My only way of coping with this has been to withdraw due to the extreme stress it has caused and I feel we can no longer cope. No one seems to be aware of this dreadful abuse and, sadly, no one seems to care. Your research is exactly right and I can only hope that one day someone will take up the cudgel and fight for these children and their families. Thanks you.


  16. What I have found so difficult in the past 30 months of dealing with the Family Courts, and in particular CAFCASS, is their determined unwillingness to even consider that deliberate undermining of my relationship with my 2 sons is taking place (and now spreading to other family members too). The trouble is that you become so desperate to try and prove the point, to try to get someone to sit up and listen. You fail, CAFCASS dig their heels in. You try again and so on.

    Before too long they can in their minds justifiably make the assumption that you are, to use Karen’s words…. ‘making a claim of parental alienation which is being used as a coercive control tool is usually made in a fixed and rigid manner and is aggressively and relentlessly pursued. A parent who seeks to control you as the professional and who is seen to be unable to reflect and consider other view points may be using the claim of pa.t you are ‘

    But you just cannot sit back and let the harm continue, you have to feel that you are doing all that you can, all the time feeling levels of utter frustration and exasperation (with the very authorities there to intended to protect your children) that take you close to the edge.

    The more you do, the greater their justification for pointing the finger at you. Do nothing and you lose everything, including the most precious thing you will ever own.


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