Parents Are Encouraged to Avoid Parental Alienation Syndrome During Separation and Divorce

Divorce and parental separation can take its toll on families and may be especially difficult for children. When a divorce or parental separation is particularly acrimonious, it can actually cause serious and lasting emotional harm to the children. In some cases, a child may alienate himself from one parent.. This situation is sometimes referred to as Parental Alienation Syndrome. It is important for couples who are divorcing or separating to take steps necessary to avoid  Parental Alienation Syndrome  with their children.


Alienation occurs when a child tries to disassociate with a parent, often after a divorce or parental separation. It is a problem that can occur, especially when a child feels that they are protecting one parent or simply want to side with one parent over the other. This can occur more frequently when the separation is a contentious one. Alienation is not recognized as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) but rather is generally a term used to describe the situation that happens when a child becomes estranged from a parent.

Avoid Alienation

Parents need to be cognizant of the potential for emotional problems that may occur with their children. One of the most important things to remember is not to involve your kids in the problems with the adults. While you may be hurt, frustrated, upset, and angry with your spouse or former partner it is essential that you try to shield your children from these emotions. Even young children can be quite perceptive, but they may not even know the details of why you are angry. They see that you want nothing to do with their mother or father and they may take the same stance.

Adults Only

Make sure that you don’t involve children in the relationships of adults. Some kids may internalize these situations and others may act out. Still other children may feel that they need to take sides in the divorce. A child often feels that he is betraying one parent by still loving the other one. Still other children feel a need to “protect” one parent versus the other. The “protection” is not necessarily from physical or other threat, it may simply be protection from the aligned-parent’s loneliness or sense of abandonment. In other words, the child may refuse to spend time with the other parent because they do not want to abandon the aligned-parent. Parents should speak about the divorce only to other adults, and only when the children are not present. Steer clear of discussing the divorce issues, even with older children, since this can create hard feelings.

Stay Positive

Regardless of how difficult the divorce situation has become, it is your job as a parent to stay positive and assure the child of the love of both parents. Do not allow your children to see any frustration or irritation you have with the other parent. It is also important that the child remain in contact with parents through regular visitation. When dealing with a difficult divorce or parental separation, choose an experienced divorce attorney to guide you through the process and keep you grounded so you can assist your children as they face the family changes.  Contact the legal team at Udall Shumway to discuss your case today.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Avoid Parental Alienation Syndrome, or other family law issues, please feel free to contact 480.461.5300, log on to, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.