Family Law / Divorce Library

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Parents are expected to tell children to follow the parenting arrangement, and to convince their children to follow the parenting arrangement (e.g. taking away electronics when children refuse to attend), except in rare circumstances (e.g. there has been violence towards a child and the parent withholding access promptly applies to the court to vary parenting time/conditions).

Alienation of affection is pressuring a child to reject their relationship with the other parent (SLT v AKT, 2009 ABQB 13 at para 7 cited in DBF v BF, 2017 ABCA 272 at para 41). It usually appears that a child refuses to see a parent they formerly had a relationship with, without any valid rationale.

On the other hand, not every instance of children refusing to have contact with a parent are alienation. For example, a child refusing to see a parent because the parent has committed violence against them. This page focuses on circumstances where there is evidence of a parent's alienating behaviour.

Alienation can be difficult to prove. It may require a Voice of the Child Report or children's counsel to ascertain the children's Views, however in extreme circumstances it might require a Practice Note 8 bilateral custody assessment report prepared by a psychologist, which are very expensive.

Fast action is needed to correct alienation. Depending on the circumstances, this might include:

  1. Obtaining a court order which prohibits parents from making negative comments about the other to the children, or prevents them from discussing certain topics with the children (for example court or child support).

  2. In sufficient circumstances, a parent who is caught alienating might have their parenting time temporarily suspended, or conditions placed on their parenting. In some cases their parenting time may even need to be Supervised by a third party. These remedies tend to be more likely where a parent is violating a court order (for example, see Kremenik v Kremenik, 2019 ABCA 295).

  3. Re-establishing parenting time by court order, if a parent is withholding parenting time or gate keeping (placing unreasonably conditions on parenting time or otherwise unreasonably interfering with parenting time). In extreme cases, a court order may require a paragraph known as a police enforcement clause which directs the police to enforce the order. Courts do not award these routinely, as exposing the children to police intervention can be problematic.

  4. In the most extreme of scenarios, courts may order a custody reversal. The children are directed to reside primarily with the wronged parent, and the perpetrator of alienation may have their parenting time limited, suspended (B(RM) v B(DT), 2020 ABCA 11), placed on conditions, or supervised. A custody reversal is available following a finding of contempt of court (where a court order is violated), although custody reversals should be used with restraint, proportionate to the gravity of the conduct and personal culpability of the perpetrator, and the court must first consider other, less drastic measures (JLZ v CMZ, 2021 ABCA 200 at paras 62, 68). Supervised parenting time might even mean with a psychologist with special expertise present (CMZ v JLZ, 2021 ABQB 700 at para 143).

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Content by Ken Proudman of BARR LLP (Edmonton)

Last updated on November 12, 2022

Last complete review of all content on this page on November 12, 2022

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