Understanding And Addressing Parental Alienation In South Africa


If you’re going through or have gone through a divorce or separation in South Africa, and you’re feeling like the other parent is trying to alienate you from your children, you’re not alone. Parental alienation can be a distressing experience for the alienated parents and children involved in such situations, whether in a mild or severe form.

Parental alienation involves one parent deliberately and unjustly harming the close bond between a child and the other parent. These actions and behaviours lack valid reasons and can lead to severe consequences. This form of behaviour typically occurs in high-conflict separations or divorces.

When examining the divorce statistics in South Africa, it becomes evident that numerous children are growing up in separated households, potentially encountering parental alienation issues. For this reason, it is a good idea to understand better what parental alienation is, some of its common signs, how you might prove it in court, and, most importantly, how you might repair the damage it causes.


What Is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation refers to the deliberate or unintentional act of one parent attempting to undermine the relationship between the other parent and their children. It often involves actions alienating a child from a loving and capable parent, such as negative comments, false accusations, or refusing visitation rights.

In South Africa, parental rights and responsibilities are protected by the Children’s Act 38 of 2005, and it is crucial to understand your rights as a parent when facing such challenges.

It is also important to note that this act protects children’s rights and that undermining or causing your child to reject their other parent could be seen as a form of child abuse as this behaviour is not in the best interests of the child/ren.


What Are Some Common Signs Of Parental Alienation?

Identifying the signs of parental alienation is the best place to start in addressing the issue. Here are some common signs to be aware of:

  • The alienating parent believes your children do not need you in their lives.
  • Your child consistently comments negatively about you or expresses hatred without a valid reason.
  • The other parent actively prevents or monitors your communication with your child, making it difficult for you to maintain a healthy relationship. Or if they frequently do not pass on medical, school, or special event information.
  • Your children or the other parent starts to make allegations of abuse, neglect, or other harmful behaviours that are unfounded against you.
  • The other parent starts to restrict your access to the children or manipulates the visitation schedule to limit your time together.
  • The other parent frequently degrades you in front of your shared children or talks down about you behind your back to your children.


What Are Some Common Side Effects Of Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation can have profound effects on both parents and children. Children in such a situation often experience emotions such as anxiety, depression, or guilt due to the pressure to choose sides. In many cases, the child feels a sense of loss, loss for the parent they still love but are told no longer loves them, and loss for the relationship they once had.

Alienation can strain the bond between the alienated parent and the child. As a result, the alienated children may struggle with trust issues and have difficulty forming healthy relationships in the future.

For alienated parents, there is often an overwhelming emotional response, including anxiety, frustration and powerlessness, deficiency, stress, grief and loss, pain and anger, and an overall sense of being unloved. In South Africa, parental alienation can lead to legal actions that impact custody and visitation arrangements.


How Can You Prove Parental Alienation To A Court?

Proving parental alienation in a South African court can be challenging but not impossible. Here are steps to consider:

  • Document Everything: Keep records of all interactions with the other parent, including text messages, emails, and any visitation-related incidents. You might need to call on witnesses, so it would be a good idea to write down the names of anyone around you while spending time with your children.
  • Seek Professional Evaluation: Consult with a psychologist or therapist who can assess the situation professionally and its impact on your child.
  • Consult Legal Counsel: Hire an experienced family lawyer to guide you through the legal process and present evidence in court.
  • Court-Ordered Assessments: The court may order a custody evaluation or psychological assessment to determine the presence of parental alienation.


10 Ways To Repair The Effects Of Parental Alienation

Repairing the damage caused by parental alienation is a challenging but necessary process. Here are ten practical ways to work toward reconciliation:

  1. Open and Honest Communication: Encourage open dialogue with your child. Let them express their feelings, fears, and concerns without judgment. Ensure they know that you love them unconditionally.
  2. Therapeutic Intervention: Consider family therapy or counselling for you and your child. A trained therapist can help you facilitate healthy communication and emotional healing.
  3. Co-Parenting Classes: Enrol in co-parenting classes or workshops to learn effective strategies for working with the other parent in your child’s best interests.
  4. Mediation: Mediate with the other parent to find common ground and establish a cooperative co-parenting plan.
  5. Consistency and Routine: Maintain a consistent visitation schedule and routine to provide stability and predictability for your child.
  6. Legal Action: If necessary, consult with your attorney to enforce court-ordered visitation and protect your parental rights.
  7. Positive Reinforcement: Focus on positive interactions and activities with your child to rebuild trust and create happy memories.
  8. Educate Yourself: Learn about parental alienation and its effects to understand the situation better and develop strategies for counteracting it.
  9. Empower Your Child: Encourage your child to maintain a relationship with the other parent, emphasizing that it is okay to love both parents.
  10. Avoid Negative Reactions: Refrain from reacting negatively or arguing with the other parent in front of your child. Maintain a respectful and civil demeanour.


Parental alienation is a challenging issue that can have far-reaching consequences for parents and children. Understanding the signs, effects, and legal aspects of parental alienation in South Africa is essential for anyone going through a separation or divorce. By taking proactive steps and seeking professional support, you can work towards healing and rebuilding a positive relationship with your child.

Remember, if you are facing parental alienation, you can seek legal advice and support from professionals specializing in family law in South Africa. At Burnett Attorneys & Notaries, we have extensive experience dealing with divorce and child custody issues. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need assistance with child custody issues, including visitation and contact rights. Your parental rights are important, and there are ways to address and overcome this difficult situation.