Recognizing Parental Alienation: False Abuse Allegations

Whether they reside in Wellington or Jupiter, conflicted divorces challenge the best parents. In extreme cases, this family decline can be paired with behavior known as parental alienation, where one parent systematically blocks access of the other parent to the child. In order to help define the complex behaviors behind this conduct, Michael Bone and Michael R. Walsh published an article for the Florida Bar Journal. The paper defines four conditions that have been shown to mark the existence of alienation: blocking access, false abuse allegations, relationship deterioration, and child's fear reaction. This post will focus on false abuse allegations. Click here for information on blocking access. states that child abuse can include emotional, physical, sexual or neglect. False allegations can come in all four forms with the most common being sexual abuse. According to Bone and Walsh, "It has been well studied that the incident of false allegations of sexual abuse account for over half of those reported, when the parents are divorcing and are in conflict over some post dissolution issues." False allegations of physical abuse occur much less frequently, possibly due to the fact that "physical abuse leaves visible evidence."

Emotional abuse can be challenging to discern but involves a collection of behaviors frequently committed against a child, including belittling, threatening, rejecting and negative comparing. In cases of false allegations, the alienating parent may cry "abuse" under circumstances that don't fit usual criteria but are behaviors exhibited by the non-custodial parent that he or she does not agree are in the best interest of the child. It often turns out to be differences in parenting choices.

The absent parent, for example, may begin dating and introduce the significant other to the child. The alienating parent feels this is inappropriate and "abusive."  Alienating parents may be unconsciously or consciously looking for ways to accuse the absent parent, bringing validation to their own cause.

Interestingly, divorcing parents who engage in behaviors that "encourage and affirmatively support a relationship with the other parent," tend to be very cautious and reluctant to hurl accusations at a former spouse.

Of course, not every false allegation is part of parental alienation, but Bone and Walsh conclude that when myriad false accusations of one parent are multiplied over time, they send a clear message to a child. Life is not safe with the other parent.




Image courtesy of Ambro /

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