Parental alienation is known among mental health professionals as parental alienation syndrome (PAS). It can happen during divorce where one parent turns a child against the other parent. Parental alienation can be difficult to identify and once diagnosed, can be harder to prove. The diagnosis of PAS is prone to argument and can be dismissed as hearsay.

Parental alienation syndrome arises most often in child custody disputes. One parent tries to undermine the child’s relationship with the other parent by defaming the other parent. Such vilification can reach the point of brainwashing, as the child turns against the other parent for no apparent reason.

As far as raising the issue of parental alienation in divorce and child custody proceedings, some states do not recognize it in the legal sense. Courts, however, do have the power to stop parental alienation when making decisions about child support, custody, and visitation. A court can prevent a parent from using court procedures to try to delay the process and further alienation. Courts can also require parents and children to go to therapy and may appoint someone, called a guardian ad litem, to look out for the welfare of the child.