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Parental Alienation — A Serious Complication In Child Custody

Children caught in the middle of parental hostility – it’s a sad reality in many divorce cases. But a recent ruling by the Supreme Court Of British Columbia showed what can happen when conflict and custody cross the line into an increasingly studied area called parental alienation.

The case involves C.J.J. and A.J. After the couple separated in 2009, sixteen-year-old X, the eldest of their three children, became the focus of the controversy. Mother C.J.J. claimed to have enjoyed a close relationship with her son, but the boy’s attitude, words and actions deteriorated drastically into a situation that Justice Murray Blok identified as parental alienation.

Justice Blok determined that rather than having becoming estranged from his mother, X had been the victim of parental alienation. The former happens when a child grows apart from a parent for good reason. The latter is seen as a form of emotional abuse in which the child rejects one parent without reasonable cause, without guilt or sadness, typically as a result of a systematic campaign of denigration by the other favoured parent.

Justice Blok considered evidence that demonstrated how A.J., with the help of his mother, sewed seeds of extreme animosity in X. The boy eventually accused his mother of “technically stalking” him, threatened to permanently end their relationship if she didn’t pay his cell phone bill, and expressed approval of his father’s discontinuing communication with her.

The Court took serious measures, ordering the family into a reunification program to reintroduce X to his mother. X’s grandparents will not be granted access to him unless they also attend. A.J.’s custody of X was suspended and enforced by police. The Penticton-based program starts with the boy having no contact with either parent. The mother would then be introduced while the father receives therapy.

The case illustrates the degree to which custody battles can amplify in complexity. Early identification of problems such as parental alienation is critical. The family lawyers at Peterson Stark Scott are experienced in assisting couples to navigate the difficulties of divorce involving children and are ready to provide professional legal advice in this area.

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