Parental alienation occurs when one parent undermines an otherwise healthy parent-child relationship, turning the child or children against the other parent, and manipulates a child to reject the other parent, whether out of hatred, fear, disrespect or for some other reasons. Parental alienation is not uncommon in custody disputes between the parents.
The Divorce Act adopts a “maximum contact” principle that states that every child is to have access to both parents so long as it is in that child’s best interests. A parent who ignores an access schedule outlined in a court order is an contempt to court and can be subject to penalties, including fines or losing custody of the child.
Children should not be involved in their parents’ conflict. It’s not good for children to know that their parents are fighting against each other, and it’s definitely not good for their mental and psychological development. If your children have become involved in the conflict, be conscious of any unwarranted changes in behaviour.
It's part of your job, however, as a parent to make sure that you support your child's relationship with your partner, no matter how distasteful you feel about it. You should encourage your child to visit with your partner and to have a good relationship with him/ her. Talk to your child about what's bothering them and why they don't want to see the other parent. Don't impose your own views or feelings about your partner. It's important to keep your child out of any conflict you and your partner are having.
What You Can Do If Parental Alienation from the other parent is suspected?
Parental alienation usually happens when the custodian parent, either intentionally or inadvertently transferred to his/ her child the hatred and animosity towards the other parent.
If Parental alienation is suspected, you should contact a lawyer immediately for further assistance in initiating a court proceeding to intervene, and to change the custody & access arrangements. The Courts values “maximum contact” of child to both parents, and as such the Courts will take measures in an attempt to undo any alienation, including issuing a therapeutic order forcing parental counselling and / or child counselling to reduce or eliminate the effects of parental alienation. You should maintain contact with your child as much as possible in the meantime. Do not attempt to retaliate and instil your own version of parental alienation. It's important to keep your child out of any conflict you and your partner are having.
Therapeutic Counselling/ Therapy vs. Child’s Own Wishes
Child’s Own Wishes
Generally, a child cannot decide which parent they want to live with. But as a child gets closer to the age of majority, which is 18 years old in Ontario, they have more say. And it is rare for a court to make a custody and access order about a child who is 16 years old or older.
There are times, however, when a child has very strong views of their own about who they want to live with. If that’s the case and your child is older and emotionally mature and able to give his/ her views and wishes freely, then you might want to have your child’s views and wishes be heard by the Court. Usually, the older and more emotionally mature the child is, the more the child's wishes are taken into account. Pursuant to the Children’s Law Reform Act a child can express his/ her views and wishes, including but not limited to:
A voice of the chid report can be prepared by a lawyer or a social worker if the child is over the age of 7;
A custody and access assessment can be prepared by the Office of the Children's Lawyer;
With a leave of the Court, the child can express his/ her views and wishes if he/ she is getting closer to the age of majority around the age of 16.
Therapeutic Counselling/ Therapy
Then the question becomes is Therapeutic Counselling/ Therapy considered a medical treatment? Therapeutic Counselling is still fairly new, and a wide range of activities are deemed to be therapeutic counselling, some are more formal, while others less so. There are conflicting jurisprudence regarding whether an activity is medical treatment or not. The general consensus from the Court is that as long as some sort of professional bodies are governing the activities, such as psychotherapy, it is considered medical treatment.
If it is medical treatment, then shouldn’t the consent of the person who’s receiving treatment required pursuant to the Health Care Consent Act? As mentioned above, a child, under the age of majority, generally doesn’t have the right to form his/ her own consent, especially if parental alienation is involved. However, as a child gets closer to the age of majority, which is 18 years old in Ontario, they have more say. It’s a balancing between the Court’s desire for “maximum parental contact” for the best interest of the child vs. the views and wishes of the child. The general consensus from the Court is that the line is draw at the age of 16, after which it’s rare for the Court to make an order against the expressed significant and substantial objection against therapeutic therapy.
When parental alienation is suspected or you are being accused of practising parental alienation, the Courts take it very seriously, you are well advised to contact a lawyer immediately to stop a train on its track.
HTW Law can help. Call us now at 647-849-6582 or send us a message if you have some legal questions / inquiries or want to schedule an appointment with HTW Law.