Parental Alienation in California: What It Is & How to Prove It

Parental Alienation in California: What It Is & How to Prove It

April 14, 2021

No parent wants to see their relationship with their children suddenly begin to dissolve—especially if it’s for no apparent reason. It may start as a suspicion or may even be dismissed at first, as a child experiencing difficulties dealing with divorced parents, but then it continues. It escalates and a parent is facing a situation where they are truly alienated from their child or children.


Parental alienation is an underreported problem across the United States. The NPR interview, Parental Alienation: When Parents Use Their Children As Weapons, highlights one family’s story of parental alienation and the experience the investigative journalist had when visiting Facebook forums and talking to parents who had seen their exes turn their once-loving children against them. It’s terrifying—and tragic—to see a parent manipulate a child simply in an attempt to harm the other parent. And in the end, many parents who try to alienate the other won’t even make amends or try to be involved with their children once they’re discovered.

What Is Parental Alienation?

Simply put, parental alienation is the act of intentionally distancing a child from the other parent. Minor cases of parental alienation are more common after divorce and separation than one would like to admit, making this a problem that any parent should be aware of.

Parental alienation may be committed when a parent strategically and consistently influences a child by:

  • Making negative statements about the other parent
  • Making up stories and telling lies about the other parent
  • Refusing to let a child see or talk to the other parent
  • Bending or breaking custody guidelines
  • Enticing a child with fun activities to avoid planned visitation or custody
  • Comparing the other parent to a new partner
  • Controlling or restricting all communication with the other parent
  • Keeping secrets and information about the child, his or her activities, etc. from the other parent

These acts distort a child’s view of the other parent, making him or her feel fear or even hatred toward the other parent, refuse to visit or see the other parent, or tell lies about the other parent’s behavior.

Signs of Parental Alienation

There are specific signs of parental alienation to look for, consistencies between proven cases that could indicate that this may be occurring. Watch for these signs and keep detailed records/notes to make sure you can build a strong case against your ex, if he or she is attempting to destroy your relationship with your children.

The following are potential signs of parental alienation:

  • A child constantly and passionately criticizes the alienated parent, without specific reasons or any evidence as to why he or she feels this way.
  • A child has purely negative feelings about the alienated parent and purely positive feelings about the alienating parent. One parent is “all good” and the other is “all bad” without any real reasons as to why.
  • A child uses terms and phrases borrowed from adult language when describing an alienated parent’s behavior, acts, or character.
  • The child invents stories about the alienated parent, which are obviously untrue.
  • The child’s feelings of hatred toward the alienated parent extend to that parent’s family, including grandparents, children, a new spouse, or others.

Is Parental Alienation a Crime?

Parental alienation in itself is not a crime, but evidence of alienation can be used to modify custody or visitation orders in favor of the wrongly alienated parent. If a parent has committed a crime while attempting to alienate the other parent, this could result in separate criminal charges. An example may be a parent who physically harms a child and tries to blame it on the other parent, or who emotionally abuses children in an attempt to control and separate them from the other parent.

What Can I Do If My Ex Is Alienating My Child or Children?

Whether you have just noticed signs in your children that indicate alienation or already have solid proof that your ex is trying to get you out of the picture, now is the time to talk to an attorney. Proving parental alienation can be difficult, but it is possible. Getting an attorney and the courts involved early on can help your case. A court-ordered evaluation of you, your ex, and your children may be completed to get a more in-depth look at what’s going on behind the scenes. Other evidence of alienation, like phone records, supervised visits, emails, social media posts, and more can be used to corroborate your suspicions.

With enough evidence, you can have a custody or visitation order modified and enforced so your relationship with your children does not continue its downward spiral. You can get professional help so you and your children can cope with the aftereffects of parental alienation, and you can begin to work toward a brighter and more unified future.

Talk to an Experienced Southern California Divorce Lawyer

At the Edgar & Dow, we know how difficult it can be to deal with the aftermath of a divorce—particularly one where your ex has decided to try to turn your children against you. If you think you might have a case of parental alienation on your hands, give us a call. We can talk to you about what’s happening and can offer guidance regarding your rights and options. Acting fast is your best bet to turn things around, and we’re right here with the answers you need.

Call (888) 251-9618 today to find out more about parental alienation in California and how our attorneys can help. We handle all types of family law matters throughout TemeculaRiversideAnaheimPalm Desert, and the surrounding areas.


The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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