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33 Queen's L.J. 79 (2007-2008)
Alienated Children and Parental Separation: Legal Responses in Canada's Family Courts

handle is hein.journals/queen33 and id is 83 raw text is: Alienated Children and Parental Separation:
Legal Responses in Canada's Family Courts
Nicholas Bala,* Barbara-Jo Fidler,** Dan
Goldberg*** and Claire Houston****
Family law cases with alienation allegations and with problems in enforcing access are
very challenging for lawyers, judges and mental health professionals, and potentially very
damaging for children. Conflicting claims and uncertainty in the assessment of the
psychological dynamics and in the prognosis are common. Some cases involve emotionally
abusive pathological alienation, caused by the conduct of an alienating parent, while others
involve realistic estrangement that is attributable to the conduct of the rejected parent. Often
both parents bear some responsibility for the problems. In cases involving alienation, judges
must attempt both to protect the integrity of the justice system and promote the interests of the
child. It is highly desirable to have early assessment by a qualified mental health professional
and quick intervention by the legal system, before attitudes harden and patterns are set. Less
adversarial approaches and therapeutic interventions are appropriate for less severe cases, but
in more severe cases, the threat of an effective legal response is necessary. Variation of custody is
a drastic response, but in more severe cases it may be the only way to stop emotionally abusive
alienating conduct. In some cases, it may be best for the child not to pursue efforts to enforce
contact. Collaboration of legal and mental health professionals is essential to effectively address
alienation cases.
* Professor, Faculty of Law, Queen's University. This author wishes to acknowledge
funding support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The authors
wish to acknowledge the editorial assistance of Emily Bala, and valuable comments from
Mark LaFrance.
** Registered Psychologist, Toronto.
*** Senior Counsel, Office of the Ontario Children's Lawyer, Toronto. The views
expressed herein are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the
Office of the Children's Lawyer.
**** Student-at-law, Office of the Children's Lawyer, 2007-2008.

N. Bala et al.

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