One of the most harmful possible outcome of separation and divorce for children is being subjected to parental alienation- being taught to denigrate, reject, or even hate a parent. The resultant child behaviours determine the presence of parental alienation. Usually, the primary behaviour that signifies parental alienation is contact or visiting refusal in the absence of legitimate justification.
There is a critical debate around the parental alienation issue. Controversies between advocates and opponents of the parental alienation syndrome focus mainly on the role of the so-called alienating parent and on which models of intervention are appropriate. From its first definition as ‘Parental Alienation Syndrome’, the concept of parental alienation gained traction with the long-standing campaign charity, Families need Fathers, and then the Father4Justice group.
Arguing parental alienation in the courts was made very difficult as courts and family law communities have not adequately responded to it, and the current legal and policy responses are inadequate. The delay in courts and lack of timely access to expert advice, the lack of responsiveness harm the children involved, and send an insidious message to the other parents that alienating conduct may be tolerated.
Parental alienation violates the best interest of the child, a core principle of modern family law and of international law concerning children (a fundamental principle of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child). When the child does not have a history of difficulties with a parent, or there is not a history of maltreatment, then the refusal would be perceived as illegitimate. Two conditions must be met for violence and abuse to occur: there must be a significant human injury, and it must be the result of human action. Parental alienation fits that definition concerning both child and partner abuse. 
In the current clinical literature, a distinction is made between parental alienation (unjustified rejection of one parent following manipulation and indoctrination of the child) and estrangement (justified rejection of one parent following a real history of neglect, physical and sexual abuse or domestic violence). Clear legislation about the importance of the child’s relationship to both parents can have a critical educative educational? role so that judges, other professionals and parents can be aware of the damage of alienating conduct.
There are few examples of passing parental alienation in the law. In 2010, Brazil passed a law criminalising parental alienation because it is ‘moral abuse’ – a violation of the child’s fundamental right to have healthy family interactions and family life. In 2015, the Australian Federal Court recognised parental alienating behaviours as a form of family violence that causes harm to children.
Parental alienation is becoming more recognised and understood in the UK, but there is no official definition in any law. It is recognised by Cafcass (court-appointed social workers) as arising ‘when a child’s hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent’. Cafcass has developed a Child Impact Assessment Framework (CIAF) that is focused on understanding the child’s personal experience of parental separation as a tool to help courts make more informed decisions about the best interests of the children.
In cases of high-conflict separation or divorce battles where the children are used and manipulated, the active and interdisciplinary collaboration of all professions involved is essential. Prochild project is addressing the issue of child abuse, a problem which affects all social classes, and it is not easy to identify. To prevent future harm to children affected by parental alienation, the family systems should engage both the victim and the perpetrator. Clear legislation about the importance of the child’s relationship to both parents can have an important educative role so that judges, other professionals and parents can be aware of the damage of alienating conduct.
 R. Brian Howe and Katherine Covell, Parental alienation and the best interests of the child, Psychology, Law, and the Wellbeing of Children, Oxford University Press (2014), available at https://books.google.co.uk/books (visited the 24th of August, 2020).
Julia Nelson, Iain Hutchinson, The courts’ attitude to Parental Alienation in 2019 – too little and too late?, available at: https://www.parklaneplowden.co.uk/barristers/julia-nelson (visited the 9th of August, 2020).
 Note 3 above.
 Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 44/25 of the 20th of November 1989, available at https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/ProfessionalInterest/crc.pdf (visited the 10th of August, 2020).
 Edward Kruk PhD, Parental Alienation as Child Abuse and Family Violence, available at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/co-parenting-after-divorce/201901/parental-alienation-child-abuse-and-family-violence (visited the 15th of August, 2020).
 Bernet W, Wamboldt MZ, Narrow WE. Child affected by parental relationship distress. J Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2016a, 55: 571-579.
 Brazilian Law 12 318 – Ratified law that defines and punishes parental alienation, available at http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/_Ato2007-2010/2010/Lei/L12318.htm (visited the 20th of August, 2020).
 To see: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1718a/18bd09 (visited the 24th of August, 2020).
 Rebecca Dziobon, Laura Hughes, Analysis: Parental alienation and the new Cafcass assessment framework, (2019), available at https://www.familylaw.co.uk/news_and_comment/analysis-parental-alienation-and-the-new-cafcass-assessment-framework (visited the 15th of August, 2020).
 To see: https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/professionals/ciaf/ (visited the 26th of August, 2020).