Courts’ Recognition of Parental Alienation

divorce attorney Jill Duffy

By Jill A. Duffy

Attorney, Cordell & Cordell

Parental alienation is becoming a hot topic and is getting more recognition in courts. It generally occurs during divorce or separation. That is why the topic is addressed in providing help with divorce.

Fathers are often put in a situation where parental alienation affects their relationship with their children, and I frequently am asked if parental alienation is recognized by the courts?

Parental alienation is when a child expresses unjustified hatred or unreasonably strong dislike of one parent, making access by the rejected parent difficult or impossible. These feelings may be influenced by negative comments by the other parent and by the characteristics, such as lack of empathy and warmth, of the rejected parent. For further information, has many videos, podcasts and articles that provide help with divorce and discuss parental alienation.

Symptoms of parental alienation can vary from child to child, making it difficult to explain the need for help with divorce, and include unexplained fear of one parent; weak or absurd reasoning for the child’s behavior; the appearance that they are following a script, but denial of such; no guilt or remorse about treating one parent poorly; always siding with one parent, even when it makes no sense to do so; using “borrowed” phrases, which the child does not understand and cannot explain; and hatred of the parent that spreads to the parent’s entire side of the family.

Parental alienation varies in the degree of severity. The severity can be of such little consequence as a parent occasionally calling the other parent a derogatory name; or it could be as overwhelming as the parent’s campaign of consciously destroying the children’s relationship with the other parent.

Having your child express negative feelings toward you can be very distressing. If you believe your child is being affected by parental alienation, you should seek the help of a professional in this area and get help with divorce. Trying to make amends with your child, or persuade the other parent from doing harm is not easy and rarely leads to a solution.

It is likely that both parents, and the child, will need to seek counseling to resolve the issues. A parental alienation professional will be able to diagnose and treat the parental alienation symptoms of the entire family, and may be able to testify in court about what is occurring.


Jill A. Duffy is an Associate Attorney in the Troy, Mich., office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in the state of Michigan. Ms. Duffy received her BA in Psychology and Spanish and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Oakland University. She received her Juris Doctor from Michigan State University College of Law and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

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