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Part I: Understanding parental alienation

There are few in the world of family law as well-regarded and influential as Attorney Ashish S. Joshi on the subjects of complex divorce and parental alienation. Ann Arbor’s Joshi recently authored “Temporary No-Contact Orders: The Necessary Ingredient for Effective Reunification in Cases Involving Parental Alienation,” published in the Michigan Family Law Journal.

He notes that though parental alienation has received media attention in recent years, it’s not a new phenomenon: “The concept of parental alienation has been acknowledged and addressed by English-speaking courts for the last 200 years.”

What is “parental alienation”? Joshi writes that it’s widely accepted as a “mental condition in which a child – usually one whose parents are engaged in a high-conflict separation or divorce – allies himself or herself strongly with an alienating parent and rejects a relationship with the ‘target’ parent without legitimate justification.”

Several aspects of the definition are worth mentioning. First, parental alienation can be understood as a psychological condition affecting the child, who has “a distorted or false belief that the rejected or disfavored parent is ‘evil,’ ‘dangerous,’ or somehow unworthy of love or affection.”

Second, the child rejects the parent without legitimate justification. In other words, the parent isn’t abusive but is regardless being rejected as an abusive or neglectful parent could be.

It’s also important to understand that no parent is perfect, and that the rejected parent might well have reacted to the “alienation dynamic in frustration, even anger.” But that's a reaction to the sabotaging of their relationship with their child – not the cause of the deterioration. As Attorney Joshi writes, “the essential feature of parental alienation remains that the child’s rejection of the alienated parent is far out of proportion to anything that parent has done.”

We will have more on parental alienation and Joshi’s article in an upcoming blog post. Please check back.

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