The Emotional and Psychological Terrorist: False Allegations in Parental Alienation

Many of the cases I work with feature allegations of harm.  The allegations can range from mild to severe, from a child being chastised, to a child being involved in an organised child sexual abuse gang.  A case which features allegations of harm can create anxiety in the unaware practitioner because of the way in which these are made in the cross fire of what appears to be high conflict. Being the practitioner who ventures into such cases, requires the highest levels of confidence and clarity about the role one plays and the manner in which the allegations are fed by the anxieties around the child.

One of the worst cases of such allegations came to me as a report of something a child had said had been done in a visit with a parent.  This something was profoundly shocking as well as bizarre and was reminiscent of the ‘satanic panic’ cases which arise from time to time in the UK.  When I heard this report, I was aware that what was happening in the case needed further investigation, as well as clarity in terms of sorting through the tangled weeds which had been spun around the family by the professionals in the case.  It turned out that I was able to do that work over a period of months and through that, bring the children to a safe place.  Whilst it remains that this case is one in which the most bizarre of allegations were made, it is not the only case I have worked on or continue to work with, in which allegations are made.  In doing this work I learn much about how family dynamics configure to make such allegations appear possibly real.  I also learn much about how the underlying and often unconscious beliefs in the professionals who work with families where such allegations are made, feed the fear which escalates the problem.

Allegations made in post divorce and separation cases are described by Blush and Ross in their work on the SET analysis and S.A.I.D syndrome.  Put simply, it is possible to consider cases where allegations made from the perspective of power dynamics, that is, to think about who gains power over the children or advantage in the case when an allegation is made.  Using this approach, it is possible to begin to understand the reasons why such allegations arise at given points in cases and why, for example, allegations that harm was done in the past, were not raised in the past but instead raised retrospectively to cause concern about the capacity of a parent to care for a child post separation.

The whole issue of allegations in divorce and separation is so thorny that many professionals will not go near such cases and it is true that working in such a case can become a nightmare if one does not follow the rules.  In general, where such allegations are made, a fact finding is the most important tool for the practitioner, because the practitioner cannot be judge and jury on things which are being alleged and if one tries to do that, one becomes inveigled into the story as someone who is either a) seeing more clearly than anyone else in the case or b) brainwashed by the alleged abuser.  Therefore, entry into such cases is made more possible and practical by a legal team who seek fact finding on such matters at the earliest opportunity.  For when a fact finding has been held, the practitioner simply holds that as the bar beyond which no further rumination nor speculation is allowed.  Anyone unable to conform to that requirement is regarded as needing further investigation because one of the problems that personality disordered people may have, is the capacity to understand a boundary.

Allegations which stop contact are frequently made and there is a pattern of behaviours which are seen when this occurs.  The stepped approach to this is usually –

  • A parent is unhappy with the children seeing a parent
  • This creates anxiety and efforts to prevent contact
  • Reports come back from children which appear to confirm the anxiety in the parent
  • The parent consults with children’s services who advise that contact is stopped or
  • The parent consults with domestic violence workers who confirm that the things fit a patter of ongoing domestic violence and advise that contact is stopped
  • Contact is stopped and the parent who stops it has the backing of outside services
  • The child’s behaviours settle down (because the child is no longer responding to the anxiety signals in the parent they live with)

Too many cases which have followed the steps above end up being dragged out in court for years and years and years.  Whilst the alleging parent is expressing a sense of relief and safety, the parent who has been targeted by allegations goes through a terrifying round of psychological responses.  Some parents whose children have made allegations against them, in cases I have worked in,  have been on bail for years without even knowing what the allegations were that were made against them.  As the legal process grinds slowly on, the mental and psychological and emotional health of the targeted parent is slowly stripped down to the bare bones of functioning.  This is emotional and psychological terrorism at its very worst.  It is coercive control which is state sanctioned and actioned and it kills target parents routinely around the world.

It must stop.

Holding a gun to the head of a loving parent through the making of allegations which have no basis in truth and which eventually are demonstrated in such cases to be both without foundation and maliciously made, should be punished with imprisonment in my view.  And yet they are not.  Every day around the UK and, it seems, the world, children’s relationships with the parent they love are erased by the use of allegations which have no basis in reality.   This is aided and abetted by the state and the manner in which the post divorce and separation landscape is populated by women’s rights workers who are either convinced that every father is a murdering child abuser or that all women everywhere should always be believed (apart from those women whose children reject them, in which case it is the children who should be believed without question).

This splitting in thinking about what is frankly, the most psychologically terrifying environment to live in, serves no purpose other than to enable the use of emotional and psychological terrorism.  It is akin to pumping parents full of cortisol, arming them with an AK47 and sending them off across a land mine filled landscape to find shelter.  The question in my mind, when I am confronted by yet another round of proclamations by Women’s Aid or Refuge about the dangers of fathering post separation, (an attitude which in reality, affects mothers whose children reject them in exactly the same way), is not, how do such allegations happen, but why do they not happen more often?

In the analysis of cases where allegations are made it becomes possible to see how the fragilities in the mind of the parent who makes such allegations, are met and fed by the unconscious beliefs of the people they turn to for help. Time and again I have worked with parents (usually mothers) whose own childhoods were peppered with abuse which is unresolved.  There is a high number of mothers in the group of parents who make allegations which turn out to be unfounded, whose own family turns out to be an unsafe place.  Thus it seems that allegations made in this way are likely the projection of unresolved issues in the family of origin.  More research is being undertaken right now in this issue at the Family Separation Clinic, because it is a repetitive feature of our work.

Emotional and psychological terrorism of parents is a horrendous way to strip a child of the right to a relationship with a loved one but it is happening all of the time in the most myriad of ways.  From the intimation of an allegation which leaves a parent discomforted (she came home and needed to use the toilet a lot) to the outright false allegation which is seen in the satanic ritual abuse case – he kills and eats babies and anally rapes us…..all such allegations require rapid investigation and then a practitioner intervention which works to hold the boundary which prevents such things from escalating.  Because when the allegations escalate they do so swiftly and they engulf anyone and everyone who stands in the way of them, family members, friends, teachers, the local cafe owner and in the case referred to above, the staff of the local McDonalds.

Why do they escalate as they do?  All to do with the inter and intra-psychic world of children, whose lives are lived symbolically and metaphorically and the manner in which our divorce and separation family services are populated by people with unresolved personal issues and very little training in psychological care of families.

The psychological world of children in the post divorce landscape and other themes in severe parental alienation cases, will be unpacked and explored at the EAPAP Conference on august 30/31st in Central London.

There has been a real upswing of interest in this conference this month, places are limited however so to join us, book here now.

If you are a parent and wish to join us and/or be on our parent panel please email us at




26 thoughts on “The Emotional and Psychological Terrorist: False Allegations in Parental Alienation”

  1. For so many years, I’ve argued the way courts supported women, as being able to care better than their male ex partners. Generalise the situation, men are aggressive, and women are not. We all knew, this is putting this problem into an unhealthy, single minded pattern for the future.
    The subject of Alienation begins somewhere. Anger over the way the relationship broke down, the idea of paying back, with child access is a common one.
    I think part of the issue with fathers stems from the above. Courts, have often seen women as the better option. I think as a grandmother, I’ve learnt much about life, had to learn, to help my grandchild in an international legal situation, I was not going to give in, to what I felt unjust.
    I suggest each case is individual, we look at people as being individuals, not simply from a legal definition of a broken relationship.


  2. A most insightful article Karen, that pulls no punches. Excellent. We need more people to speak out like this and tell it as it is.


  3. Thank you Karen for bringing more light about false allegations in parental alienation. I agree 100% with your statement below. And for those bloggers who think these type of cases only stem from mother’s alleging false abuse allegations are wrong. Men are very vicious just the same only difference maybe behavior of how it is done. Once the alienating parent has gained power and leverage from the false allegations tactic, change will never happen. As you mention everyone is engulfed and sucked into the vacuum of the case. The target parent is bereft of everything. Survival is very hard. I am a mother of three and my ex used the false abuse tactic from the onset of the divorce. As soon as I asked him to stop being abusive or I will want a divorce. He quickly turned it around on me. And even though the allegations were found unfounded, you are still stained and your children are strengthened by the process. Meaning that they have become impowered. In cases of false abuse allegations fast forward 14 years later and the children are adults mid to late twenties, what do they believe of these false allegations? Do they believe that they actually were abused?

    “Holding a gun to the head of a loving parent through the making of allegations which have no basis in truth and which eventually are demonstrated in such cases to be both without foundation and maliciously made, should be punished with imprisonment in my view.”

    Thanks again for this article most insightful.

    Anonymous- mother of three


    1. In my opinion, the children would show some signs of abuse. As I wrote this type of Alienation without proof is quite common.


  4. To many people use the system for wrong and not right I believe that early round table meetings with all involved would flush out quite a few of these people who are without conscience but they use the police with false intervention orders to not have to face anyone they accuse so it’d certainly a difficult one to tackle and I thank you for doing all u can to make change in this area and I have to say that being in this situation with false allegations and the whole system and so called experts siding with the perpetrator has to be one of the tuffest things a human could endure and when u can’t get justice in the justice system your really in Noman’s land and it’s a dark terrible place I believe it’s called LAS legal abuse syndrome :😔😔😔


  5. Alot of Women do those things to the Childrens Father, which The Women initiated seperation. And when the men dont want to play her ‘Beg me not to leave , say u will do whatever i want n whatever i tell you to do”, game, The women want to hurt the men by Filing false TPO, false allegations, demanding more child support, refusing visitation,…. etc. Alot of it is Blatant. Alot of it is HELLO! WE SEE WHO IS INITIATING THE DRAMA, NOW JUDGE, LETS TAKE CARE OF IT. but no. Judges give the crazy women all they want, while fathers get nothing, no kids, no money, struggling..


    1. I am on the other side of this. I was the primary parent and my exhusband groomed and coached my son to reject me. I recently lost custody of my son because the legal system failed. Parental alienation is a powerful weapon.


      1. God Bless you. I know i said alot of Women, and yes there are those Women as well who get the “Father’s Rights” treatment. The Judicial System is NOT about the Childs Best Interest.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow I unfortunately know how you feel and so sorry to hear this is happening to you also 😔 how does a person go on or continue in life when the most valuable thing in your life has been taken this way? Legal abuse on top of the many years of initial abuse is destroying me atm and I cant even begin to explain how I feel but I feel I’m going down hill a a very fast rate Now and im worried that there’s no coming back from this at all 😔


  6. This article is so true and sadly so real. There is nothing that happens to the parent that does this to the other parent. The parent that turns there child away from another parent is a master manipulator who can easily brain wash others including their children. They call CPS and make false allegation against the other parent. The courts don’t investigate it and it leaves the accused parent in an uphill battle of he said/she said. This is abuse in itself against the children and against the spouse. The spouse who goes through this gets no support. The parent that makes these allegation and alianates the children from the other parent has no consequences for there action. I too believe this should be punishable in the court of law.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Every time I see an Article regarding Parental Allienation of Affection, I cannot read what’s been written fast enough!
    I think the first issue that needs to be tackled, is which “gender” parent is more likely to try to Allienate their children against the other parent. I suppose we could use statistics, however, this nightmare has been happening since divorce became acceptable and yet, very few Psychological Professionals are qualified to take on such cases, let alone attorneys and Judge’s trying to figure all this out in a Courtroom. My point is, mother’s and father’s are equally capable of this hideous behavior. Having lived with this since my divorce when my children were just shy of 2 & 4 years old. In hindsight, there were plenty of signals that this would likely end up happening throughout our divorce. But how was I too know those signals? My ex-husband happened to be a very powerful attorney. I could not find anyone to help me help my children. It was an every day nightmare for my children and myself and STILL is. Even though his Psychosis of Allienating me from my children ended up with him losing his license to practice law, as he is now a convicted felon, for going as far as setting up a false crime against me. He recently got out of federal prison and he continues to try to Allienate the Affection of my daughter towards me.
    My son is Autistic and only see’s truth and lies. Because of that, and my ex telling everyone he is innocent and he was “set-up” ??? He no longer speaks too his only son, all because he cannot lie and say he didn’t commit these crimes. I intend to write a book of my childrens’ experiences and mine. What my ex-husband did resulted in me being a Witness for the FBI for almost five (5) years, being on every local news station for years, where I had lived, raised my children and worked for thirty-two (32) years. That caused us to move to another State. I’ve had calls from countless friends saying “Oh my gosh, we just saw you on ID Discovery or 20/20 or American Greed, ect”… There MUST be more awareness. Not in time, Not later, but now! This is literally destroying our children.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Another thing to consider is that alienation being done by grandparents.
    That’s what happened to my family and the grandparents put it in the child’s head they were not loved or safe at home with Mom and step dad.
    The grandparents wouldn’t listen to the parents and would allow the child to shelter even though the authorities were telling them to stop interfering.
    The grandparent’s fled from the police and made unfounded accusations and child protective services were brought in over 10 cases were opened and closed against mom and step dad….unfounded.
    But the child kept claiming abuse and running to the alienating grandparents. The other children in the home were also effected.
    It had been a complete nightmare for the entire family….and the grandparents still don’t accept their responsibility even though the grandmother was arrested for parental interference the court dismissed the charge and the behavior continued. Months and months of therapy and the child was showing signs of defiance disorder and being physically aggressive and the grandparents had no reprocussion what’s over. It completely undermined the relationship with the parents and child.


  9. Perhaps, mediation and some serious thoughts on making your situation stable.
    Alienation can be put into place by anyone. Mother, father anyone. I have personal experience of the aunt, making problems.
    Grandparents, can be useful. Not all mothers make their ex partners lives difficult. In the same breath, not all fathers are the same.
    We can’t try to put relationships into the same category.


    1. The grandparents were unstable. The authorities like therapists, child protective services etc… Advised the grandparents be removed from the children’s life. There was 18 months of mediation and 7 months of in home 3x per week therapy.
      The grandparents were lifelong alcoholics and had questionable logic and was mad at their daughter for ending the relationship due to all the unhealthy drama so they tried turning the child on her mother and stepfather by telling the child her home wasn’t normal. Instead of backing up the parents decision to take away electronics for doing unsafe things online… The grandparents told the child that mom and stepdad were not being fair and that good dad’s “don’t yell”….
      Yes…. Good dad’s yell when they discover their child doing unsafe things.
      It was alienation BY the grandparents and the professionals advised the GRANDPARENTS be removed from the children’s life.
      Not the parents.
      Grandparents, aunt’s or anyone with an alterior motive or chip on their shoulder can cause alienation and sometimes… Alienation can only be stopped by removing the offender’s.


      1. To Anonymous – thanks for sharing that story, it adds a lot to the picture I’ve been trying to put together over the past 2 years, of what faces/forms ‘Parental Alienation’ can take, as there is definitely so much more to what can cause it, than just “hostility between parents when they split up/divorce”, and to what shape it can take and who can be involved in it (not necessarily only “ex-partner against ex-partner”)


      2. It hurts my heart that I even need to mention it….. But I really really hope the professionals that are trying to understand this realize that extended family can be the instigators and we were incredibly lucky that the authorities were able to piece it all together and realize what was happening. The child Actually admitted to lying and self inflicting injuries and if she hadn’t… I’m not sure where it would all have ended up.
        We are still dealing with the reprocussions of the problem. The child needs help, cannot be trusted in the home and now there is either the choice of her going into the system or staying with the people that alienated her…. There are other children in the home and the alienated child is angry and causing major damage.
        We cannot keep being put through these false allegations and having the police involved.
        There is a vicious cycle occurring and the grandparents live very close to mom and step dad. Now at 16 years of age…. The child’s rights are different and mom and dad can’t force her away from the alcoholic grandparents.
        The situation is not good. The child has been robbed of an sense of normal relationship and was abandoned by her biological father at age 1. Step dad is devastated and terrified of more allegations and mom is now trying to protect the other children from anymore harm.
        When is it ok to give up and give in to the situation??????
        We are now in self preservation mode and feel helpless to stop the Trainwreck.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. We could add, anyone, who caused issues associated with Alienation. Some cases will be solved like in the text books. But not everyone are the same, I was once told there is a way to bring peace to most cases, it’s looking for that opening.
    There is always this bitterness in some cases. Loss of someone, to someone else. A home, that is no longer a home, it can be frightening to have to start again.


  11. For those fighting Alienation, do not use Goodall’s model, the Gardner model. It will fail you. Endless litigation trying to prove a negative. Read below:

    “The pathogen loves Gardner.

    The pathogen absolutely loves the 8-symptom Gardnerian PAS diagnostic model.

    Because it forces you to litigate pathology. Prove it. In court.

    The pathogen can drag out litigation for years. And its basic strategy is to hide behind the child, “It’s not me, it’s the child.”

    Targeted Parent: No, it’s you causing the child’s rejection of me.

    Allied Parent: Prove it.

    Targeted Parent: Okay, then. Let’s go to court and I’ll prove at trial that you are the parent causing the child’s rejection of me, and I’ll prove that it’s not some aspect of my parenting causing the child’s rejection of me. I’ll prove that… at trial.

    The pathogen loves this. It dangles a nice shiny object in front of you, “parental alienation” and you jump at the bait, hook’s embedded, and you’re one caught fish.

    Your looking at three to five years of litigation AND the burden of proving that you’re not a bad parent who “deserves” to be rejected AND the burden of proving that the child’s statements are not real but are being caused by the other parent (who the child says is wonderful).

    You don’t think the pathogen loves that? Oh my god, it gets sole de facto custody of the child for three to five years while you try to litigate pathology in the court system.

    And you know the wonderous beauty of the pathogen’s shiny object strategy? Who is the ultimate person who is diagnosing the pathology? A mental health professional? Noooo, of course not, a judge. The pathogen has created a scenario where a legal professional, the judge, is the person designated to diagnose complex mental health pathology.

    Holy cow. That’s beautiful. When I say this pathology is the absolutely best at manipulation, I’m not kidding. The shiny object seduction of the targeted parents is a thing of beauty.

    Dangle the Gardnerian 8-symtoms construct of “parental alienation” – which has to be “proven” in court. Litigating pathology. Masterful.

    So do you know what AB-PA does? It brings the diagnosis of pathology out of the courtroom and returns diagnosis to clinical psychology.

    First, AB-PA takes away the shiny object manipulation of parents of using the fatally flawed 8-symptom diagnostic model that requires the pathology be proven in court trial.

    Then, it replaces a vague diagnosis of “parental alienation” with an established DSM-5 diagnosis, V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse.

    This returns diagnosis of pathology to the world of clinical psychology.

    The 8-symptom Gardnerian PAS diagnostic model requires a child custody evaluation to “prove,” and then a court trial to “prove” again to the judge (using the prior proof of the child custody evaluation).

    Three to five years of litigation easy, and the burden of proof is always placed on the targeted parent. Prove it.

    AB-PA on the other hand is a mental health diagnosis made by a mental health professional. All licensed mental health professionals are empowered to diagnose pathology. Right now. Today. If a child comes into my office with autism, I diagnose autism. We don’t need three to five years of litigation to prove autism to the judge before we can get the diagnosis of autism.

    The three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA represents a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse. We don’t need to litigate it. It is within the power of all mental health professionals to give this diagnosis if they believe it is warranted.

    So is it warranted? Yes. Creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality disorder pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 3) warrants the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

    And any mental health professional anywhere, is empowered right now to diagnose DSM-5 pathology. Three symptoms, a simple checklist – check, check, check, a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse.

    Today. Not after three years of litigation. Today. Diagnosis is what mental health professionals are empowered to to by their licenses. We can diagnose pathology.

    The pathogen loves Gardnerian PAS and it’s eight symptoms. Prove it. Prove it to the custody evaluator (a year of litigation), prove it to the judge (two years of litigation).

    And then there’s no actual therapy for “parental alienation” because it’s only a vacuous shiny object to seduce the targeted parents into litigating pathology. So the “reunification therapists” have no clue what they’re doing and they just make stuff up.

    And the pathogen loves this. The pathogen absolutely loves the shiny object construct of “parental alienation” and the vacuous ignorance of “reunification therapy” for “parental alienation.”

    Thirty five years. The shiny object construct of “parental alienation” and the 8-symtom diagnostic model it spawns have been used for the past 35 years. The result? A disabled mental health system response and litigating the diagnosis of pathology in the courtroom, with the judge being the ultimate person to diagnose mental health pathology.

    AB-PA represents the return of clinical psychology to court-involved consultation, court-involved assessment of pathology, and court-involved treatment of pathology.

    The pathology we are assessing for is a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse. Diagnosis of pathology by a mental health professional is standard scope of practice. It’s why we are licensed. That’s what our license means, we are empowered to diagnose pathology.

    DSM-5 V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse.

    No shiny objects. Real pathology. Diagnosed by a mental health professional, not litigated in the courtroom.

    Three diagnostic indicators, a simple Checklist; check, check, check = DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

    Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality disorder pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 3) is a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

    AB-PA is diagnosis. AB-PA returns diagnosis to clinical psychology.

    Oh look… a shiny object.

    Craig Childress, Psy.D.
    Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857Your model, Ms. Woodall, is ineffective. I’ve lived it. Your proposals on fighting Alienation in court do not work.


    1. Dear Anonymous: My name is Karen Woodall not Goodall. Thank you for this post from Dr Childress with his latest stream of misinformation about anyone who does not agree with him. There is no such thing as a Gardnarian, this is simply a made up term of his for anyone who does not agree that his model is the ’solution’. I have allowed your post through so that other readers here can see what is actually only a tiny fraction of the reams he writes about his belief that anyone who does not follow his lead is wrong. I am also aware that around Dr Childress are people who are writing things like this on his Facebook page – this is a comment left recently on one of his more unpleasant rants about me and others.

      Robbie Tester
      Robbie Tester I pray the imprecatory prayers of King David in asking for a violent response from God taking out the evil these people promulgate. Thank you, Dr. Childress, for being our voice.

      Which is incitement to violence against others. Which has not been taken down from his site and which has now been reported to the UK Police.

      There is no split between the rest of the worldwide experts working on this problem day and night. The worldwide experts are, right now, heading to Stockholm and the London – at their own expense – to work voluntarily on finding solutions to the problem of parental alienation.

      Only Dr Childress sets himself apart and leads others to believe things which are untrue, denigrates people and encourages others to do the same – which leads to harassment, stalking and incitement. It is unacceptable behaviour in someone who is supposed to be professional in his approach to all things.

      Dr Childress has one way of working with pure alienation cases. I have said that it has merit in some places. It would not work in Europe however and although I have offered to test if for him in Europe he has ignored that and continued his campaign of denigration against me.

      Thank you for sharing a tiny fraction of those words he writes about anyone who does not agree with him.

      Karen Woodall


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