We are open in our 8 offices to serve your needs

In Ontario, parental alienation is recognized as a serious concern that can negatively impact the parent-child relationship as well as the wellbeing of the child.  Alienating actions may be subject to legal consequences in Ontario, whether they have occurred deliberately or unintentionally in family law proceedings. Speaking to a family lawyer can help clarify what your rights are as a parent. Contact our family law lawyers at Gelman & Associates today to learn more about how parental alienation may be affecting your family.

What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation refers to a series of repetitive behaviours committed by one parent that damage or undermine another parent’s relationship with their child. Parental alienation can be carried out by biological parents or stepparents and may be more likely to occur during a hostile separation or divorce. Often, parental alienation occurs following disputes over decision-making responsibility (custody) or parenting time.

It is important to be aware of whether a child’s opposition to one parent has occurred due to alienation or because the child has a legitimate cause, such as abuse or neglect. Navigating the nuances of a parent-child relationship, especially when divorce or separation are involved, can be challenging. Mental health professionals and family lawyers can help determine if parental alienation is affecting your family.

Signs of Parental Alienation

Some signs that a parent is intentionally alienating another parent from their child may be:

  • Making the child feel guilty for expressing positive emotions toward the alienated parent
  • Speaking negatively about the alienated parent in the presence of the child
  • Preventing visitation or access that has been previously agreed upon
  • And more

Signs that a child may be alienated from a parent include:

  • Rejection of the alienated parent for minor reasons
  • Repeating negative words about the alienated parent in a script-like or uncharacteristically mature way
  • Extending the rejection of the alienated parent to their relatives or pets
  • And more

It is important to recognize whether your family relationships have been affected by parental alienation or whether another issue is at play. If a child displays only temporary, not continual, hostility towards a parent, parental alienation may not be the explanation. In addition, parental alienation may be unlikely if a child exhibits an aversion to both parents instead of one in particular. We often recommend seeking professional advice from counsellors during instances like this. 

Is Parental Alienation Child Abuse?

In Ontario, court cases have recognized parental alienation as a form of emotional abuse and family violence. This is because parental alienation can have negative long-term effects on children.

Parental Alienation Syndrome refers to a condition developed by children subjected to particularly persistent or intense alienation. If a child internalizes their animosity towards a targeted parent, a host of behavioural challenges may arise. These include:

  • Expressing acute anger and refusing to spend time with the alienated parent or their family
  • Criticizing the alienated parent in an uncharacteristically mature manner
  • Negative behaviour towards new partners of the alienated parent
  • Suffering from depression or anxiety
  • Poor academic performance
  • And more

If you believe your child’s well-being may be at risk due to parental alienation, contact our family law lawyers at Gelman & Associates for legal help.

Parental Alienation under Ontario Law

The Divorce Act outlines that children should have regular access to both parents following their separation or divorce, so long as it is in the child’s best interests. Under Section 16(3), acting in the best interest of the child includes “a spouse’s willingness to support the development and maintenance of the child’s relationship with the other spouse.” Parents who unfairly restrict access or subject a child to harmful alienating behaviours may be subject to legal penalties. Parental alienation may be recognized in court when:

  • A positive relationship with the targeted parent existed prior to alienation
  • There is an absence of abuse by the targeted parent
  • The alienating parent has used alienating strategies
  • The child exhibits alienated behaviours or symptoms of Parental Alienation Syndrome

In Bruni v. Bruni (2010), an Ontario court found that a mother had intentionally damaged the relationship between her children and their father beyond repair. As a result, her spousal support was reduced to $1.00 a month. Hong v. Rooney (2012) similarly saw a mother remove her child from her and the father’s former home without consent to restrict access to the father. Because the court found the mother unable to support a relationship between the father and child, the father was awarded sole decision-making responsibility. 

Can Parental Alienation Affect Decision-Making Responsibility (Custody)?

A proposed amendment to the Divorce Act, Bill C-78, indicates that parental alienation should influence family court decisions. As a result, consequences for parental alienation can include changes to decision-making responsibility or decreased parenting time. In some cases, sole decision-making responsibility may be awarded to the parent who has been alienated in an attempt to re-establish a healthy relationship.

It is important to note that both parents are treated equally by courts judging parental alienation and decision-making responsibility. A court will only restrict a parent’s rights when it is in the best interest of the child to do so. In cases like Rogerson v. Tessaro (2006) or A.G.L v. K.B.D (2009) where the mother has been found guilty of engaging in alienation, decision-making responsibility has been awarded to the father.

How to Prevent Parental Alienation & What to Do if It Has Occurred

There are steps you can take to prevent parental alienation from escalating during a separation or divorce:

  • Maintain as much contact with your child as possible
  • Cultivate positive, fun, and enjoyable interactions with your child
  • Do not employ alienating actions against another parent
  • Employ a mediator to facilitate positive negotiations between you and your former partner regarding decision-making responsibility or parenting time

In cases where parental alienation has already occurred, actions may be taken to minimize further damage:

  • Collect and record evidence of alienating actions committed by another parent
  • Inform the alienating parent of your concerns and make requests to access your child in writing
  • Participate in reunification therapy to restore a healthy family dynamic following estrangement
  • Obtain a court order that legally defines visitation and parenting time
  • Speak with a family lawyer immediately

If you feel the severity of parental alienation necessitates legal intervention, our family law lawyers at Gelman & Associates can be of assistance.

Speak to Our Family Lawyers Today

Children should be protected from conflict between their parents, regardless of the conditions of a separation or divorce. Our family law lawyers at Gelman & Associates are capable of providing specific and tailored advice to help relieve the impacts of parental alienation on your family. Schedule a consultation with our family lawyers today.

Disclaimer: For specific legal advice on your family law matter, please consult with a family law lawyer. The content in this article is not intended to act as legal advice and is instead intended to act as a general overview of a legal topic.

Contact Form - Contact Us Page

Request a free consultation

Please fill out this form with your contact information and someone will be in touch with you soon.

Contact Preferences

How would you like to be contacted? Click all that apply.

How can we help you?

Brief description of your legal issue:

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm is not secure and does not establish a lawyer-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.



4211 Yonge Street • Suite #210 • Toronto • Ontario • M2P 2A9

View Map | Learn More

Aurora **

16 Industrial Parkway South • Aurora • Ontario • L4G 0R4

View Map | Learn More


500 Mapleton Avenue, Suite A • Barrie, Ontario • L4N 9C2

View Map | Learn More

Downtown Toronto **

100 King Street West • Suite #5600 • Toronto • Ontario • M5X 1C9

View Map | Learn More


4257 Sherwoodtowne Blvd Suite #300 • Mississauga Ontario • L4Z 1Y5

View Map | Learn More

Scarborough **

10 Milner Business Court • 3rd Floor • Scarborough • Ontario • M1B 3M6

View Map | Learn More

Grimsby **

33 Main Street West, • Grimsby • Ontario • L3M 1R3

View Map | Learn More

Whitby **

105 Consumers Drive - Unit 2, • Whitby • Ontario • L1N 1C4

View Map | Learn More
** Satellite office that requires you to book an appointment with us prior to arriving at the office.
Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers
Law Society of Ontario
Peel Law Association
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto
York Region Law Association
Collaborative Practice Simcoe County
Law Association Simcoe County
Widows & Orphans Fund