This is probably the most common problem presenting itself in high conflict divorce cases, where one or more of the children are intentionally estranged from the other parent by the residential custodian parent. One parent, usually the favoured parent (residential parent), badmouths the other parent in such a way that children adopts the view of the alienating parent (favoured parent) as if it is their own view about the alienated parent (rejected parent).

By this time a Family Advocate could already be involved in terms of determining custody. Alienating parents tend to ignore the parenting plan and prevent that the rejected parent have access to the children. This may even happen from the beginning before legal teams are involved.

Sometimes it happens unintentional where the broader family members are discussing all the bad traits (exaggerated and distorted) of the rejected/alienated parent. Issues that were not a problem during marriage, becomes now melodramatic and embroidered. When these matters are embroidered in a discussion the children may even stand closer to overhear the discussion without the parents knowing that they stand around the corner. Such an alienating parent may have major anger, pain and emotional challenges around the separation/divorce and possibly wants to use the children’s alienation as a tormenting tool for the other parent. Sometimes the alienation is rational/legitimate, button many cases irrational and vindictive, based on embellished facts around the rejected parent. Alienation is mostly used to negotiate the divorce outcome and settlement.

Parents should rather shelter their children against the divorce battles. Children do need to experience love and care from both parents even if they are divorced in order to prevent mental health issues when grown up.
Alienation is generally regarded as psychological abuse with severe consequences for children as grownups. Sometimes when alienated children are putting realities together and realise that they have rejected the other parent on false information, they may turn against the alienating parent (residing custodian parent).

When the rejected parent decides to have access to the alienated children it may lead to expensive court cases, as well as therapeutic interventions. A court will usually appoint a mental health professional to intervene and to provide therapy for the children, as well as bonding therapy between the children and rejected parent. Such interventions are usually performed with a High Court order.

Alienation is very painful to the children as well as the alienated parent.

Professionals have to be on the lookout for psychopathology in the alienating parent-child relationship, and to be able to distinct between deception as a psychopathological trait/symptom or deception as a strategy for alienation. Malingering is many times at play, but other times deception in order to influence the child(ren) in such a way to display psychopathological symptoms (e.g. anxiety). Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another (previously Factitious disorder by Proxy) can many times be at the core of psychopathology symptoms. Deception is an evident trait in Group B Personality Disorders.


The court appoints a psychologist in one of the following roles (not both at once):

  1. Evaluator for custody, OR,

  2. Provisioning of Psychotherapy


The Professional should:

  • Treat you with respect and with fairness

  • Be impartial and be knowledgeable about alienation research.

  • Not allowing personal, cultural and gender biases to influence the process.

  • Have experience in working with and be knowledgeable about alienation.

  • Not be ignorant towards child abuse, but should also be able to recognise when abuse is used for purposes of alienation.

  • Have wide experience in working with child abuse.

  • Take enough time to know your family.

  • Be able to carefully examine your family history and family relationships.

  • Carefully investigates allegations of abuse and family violence.

  • Not automatically accepts that both parents contributes equally to high-conflict divorces.

  • Clearly understands the importance of children’s good relationship with both parents after divorce.

  • Be aware that children can give detailed and convincing, yet false and influenced, reports about parents or a parent.

  • Have specialised interview techniques to unmask systemic programming and alienation. A diagnosis or recommendations are normally more accurate towards the end of a long stretched process of intervention. In my experience it may take weeks or even months.

  • Have a good repertoire of therapeutic skills.

  • Be able to know when therapy fails and make the necessary recommendations to the court.

  • Be able to recognise rehearsed adult influences.

  • Understand that a child’s total rejection or unreasonable rejection is not ordinarily justified by parental personality weaknesses and imperfect parenting skills.

  • Be able to provide parental guidance in order to counter/prevent/resolve alienation.

  • Draw conclusions in the report that are consistent with the findings and information gathered.

  • Make recommendations that are inline with the conclusions and the whole report. A logical report narrative is important.

It is important to know, both the legal and mental health professional, that ethical work in this field is extremely important because the professional relationship will unlikely continue after litigation.

A good attorney will impartially help you to see the process, reports and other matters more clearly and without prejudice. An experienced mental health professional will know where to look for evidence of indoctrination and subtle influence. And will know when to allow contradictory statements and lies to pass without comments. But will also know when to challenge the patient. And will deploy strategies to get to the bottom of the alienation.

I am sorry to say that in both systems, legal and mental health, wrong decisions are taken due to a lack of knowledge about alienation and misapplication of well-founded psychological theory. There are people who wrongly believe that it will be traumatic for children to be placed with the parent who is unreasonably rejected. And there are people who wrongly believe that the rejected parent has done something terrible to the alienating child. And there are people who wrongly do not believe in alienation due to a lack of knowledge thereof.

This office will not be providing services where the rejection is reasonable and sound with evidence, or where the history of the relationship with the rejected parent was not sound.


It is important to take note of the following options available for reuniting the rejected parent and rejecting child(ren):

  • Mediation is always the preferred way for repair via the office of the Family Advocate

  • Custody awarded to the preferred parent……

  • Custody awarded to the rejected parent for a substantial period of time……

  • Placing the child(ren) in a facility other than the parental home……

  • Terms and conditions applies for above scenarios.

This Practice has an unique programme to assist above outcomes, reuniting the rejected parent with the rejecting child(ren). WJA Engelbrecht travels around the country to assist with alienation and attachment repair. It includes a one day workshop with the respective parties, or a four day programme (or longer) before the court case, per family.
Please contact us for your personalised quotation.



Custody battles between parents can become a very expensive exercise for one or both of the parents. The expense is not only in monetary value, but also how traumatic it may become for children involved.

Mediation is always a better option than litigation when it comes to children. The following website provides very useful information related to family law, divorce and separation matters:

LEGAL ASSISTANCE: We strongly belief in equal representation in the courts of South Africa. Legal assistance information may be obtained from the website of the Law Society of South Africa if a person qualifies for such assistance. Vulnerable groups may qualify. Please read the terms and conditions on the following websites (click on the links below for more info):

All above information serves only as information. No other obligations nor liabilities are attached in providing above information or if you are using above websites or links.


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