We are open in our 8 offices to serve your needs

How to best treat parental alienation cases

When it comes to parental alienation cases – arguably the toughest type of high-conflict custody dispute – case law proves attending lawyers must be sensitive, focused, detail-oriented and well informed on mental health literature, Toronto family lawyer Jennifer Samara Shuber writes in a paper for the Law Society of Upper Canada.

The paper, titled Alienation Update: What Are The Courts Doing With These Cases?, was written for the Law Society’s Six Minute Family Lawyer Program, held last month, and summarizes the case law and judicial responses to alienation in decisions from across the province in the past 12 months.

“Having reared its ugly head for the first time in or around 1985 when the term ‘parental alienation syndrome’ was coined by Dr. Richard Gardiner, sadly, this pathology is here to stay,” writes Shuber, partner with Basman Smith LLP, noting the term has been defined as attempts by one parent to undermine the relationship a child has with the other parent.

“That being the case, how are our courts dealing with these most extreme of high conflict cases? How are judges handling this behaviour, which some have gone so far as to label as child abuse?”

Judicial responses to parental alienation include: ordering an assessment; ordering supervised access on a permanent basis; intervention in the early stages of the dispute, before the problem has had time to become “true” alienation, or in the early years of a child’s development; changing custody on a temporary basis; determining whether “pure” or “mixed” alienation is taking place; keeping the courts involved; suggesting counselling; making a finding of contempt; making a no-contact order; involving the Children’s Aid Society; not making a parallel parenting order; meeting with the children; and in extreme cases, putting the alienating parent’s actions on court record, in hopes that if the child revisits the issue as an adult, they may be able to see what actually took place.

Most of the time in alienation cases, writes Shuber, “the children’s circumstances get worse before they get better if, in fact, they ever improve at all. Alienation cases extract a significant emotional toll on everyone involved: the parties, the children and even the professionals working with the family.

Such cases are not for everyone, she adds, and staying up to date on alienation research is essential for the lawyer.

“New developments in this area could play a role in how the file is managed. No one – lawyer, judge or mental health professional – has yet found a foolproof way to resolve alienation cases and protect these most vulnerable of children. New and creative approaches are helpful and, arguably, even necessary,” she writes.

“Alienation cases take ongoing attention and the active involvement of counsel every step of the way,” she adds, noting working with co-counsel can be helpful in such situations.

View the full article on Advocate Daily


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