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Parental alienation is the psychological manipulation of a child into showing unfounded fear, contempt or hostility towards a parent that is unjustified. Alienation is certainly a common counter-allegation when accusations of family violence and abuse are made in family law proceedings.
The concept of alienation syndrome is quite controversial, and many argue that it does not exist. In fact, it is so divisive that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights launched an inquiry in late 2022 to comprehend how the ‘discredited’ notion of alienation has been progressed into child custody cases and how (if at all) it undermines the wellbeing and safety of children.
Whether or not parental alienation syndrome ‘exists’, family lawyers can often be involved in cases where parents actively seek to undermine the relationship between a child and the other parent post separation.
Allegations of alienation are made often in high conflict parenting matters in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia; however the Courts are hesitant to make conclusive findings of alienation apart from in extreme cases.
In the case of McGregor & McGregor  Fam CAFC 69, the Federal Circuit Court found that the father had alienated the children from the mother through:
The father submitted an appeal on the basis that he had not had the opportunity to cross examine, respond to, or introduce contrary evidence in relation to the academic literature referred to by the Judge, where those writings formed the basis of the Orders and supported the findings made by the Judge.
The Full Court determined that it is “difficult to see on what basis academic writings could be permissibly relied upon unless tendered in evidence by one of the accepted means. This, it seems to us, is a crucial aspect of the use of such material.”
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