After divorce, the mother got custody of our now 12-year-old daughter. The mother has committed at least 9 (provable) acts of transgressions indicating active application of parental alienation, most of which is still continuing. The Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is the effect it has on our daughter. Due to its insidious nature, the parental alienation took place over two-plus years to reach this current state at which I at last woke up to it. Previous to this period the relationship was fine and normal.

Having experienced PAS, my child is very reticent and unresponsive to my attempts in rebuilding our relationship. The condition is very much like sulking, but with an externally inflicted cause.

I have intermittent telephonic access (controlled by the mother: I call her and ask to talk to my daughter), and see my daughter twice a week for less than an hour each time. I want to use these accesses to try and salvage something of a relationship with my daughter.

I've looked at legal options but will not take that route - can see only harm and stress affecting my daughter on top of the PAS. I've informed the mother that I'm aware of what is going on, but no helpful response from her side (yet), but I'm working on it, although I'm not holding my breath.

What approaches can I try to invoke interest, cooperation and joint bonding experiences? What can I do to (re)bond with my daughter?

  • "Having experienced parental alienation syndrome": Could you expand on this, especially with regards to the "externally inflicted cause"? It's not really a very well known term, and that makes this question hard to answer. Obviously no-one wants you to reveal personal details, but if you could expand on the events that triggered this behaviour, and explain how it's affecting their behaviour, and how you've already been trying to deal with it, I'm sure we'd be happy to help.
    – deworde
    Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 9:33
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    From what I've just looked up on the internet, PAS is generally one parent attempting to turn the child against the other. If so, please edit the question to say so.
    – deworde
    Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 10:08
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    Well, yes, but as the third paragraph down reads : "Parental alienation syndrome is not recognized as a disorder by the medical or legal communities and Gardner's theory and related research have been extensively criticized by legal and mental health scholars for lacking scientific validity and reliability.", I felt a little more information on the actual situation at hand might be helpful.
    – deworde
    Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 16:14

2 Answers 2


The primary thing here has to be your daughter's welfare. If you and the mother have an actively hostile relationship, then you need to shield her from it as much as possible. When you spend time with her, avoid all mention of her mother, except in a supportive context (e.g. if she's complaining about her mum, remind her that her mother loves her, and deserves respect).

One thing I would suggest is to spend some time every day writing a little note to your daughter. Just tell her about your day, something interesting you saw or heard or did. Always sign off with your love. Either e-mail it to her, or better, send it in an pretty envelope. This effectively increases the time you spend with her, because she knows you're thinking about her at other times, and she's got the letters to remind her of you. The other advantage is that, even if your daughter's in a position at the moment where she's supporting her mother at the cost of you, the letters will be there for when she's more interested.

Beyond that, just be there whenever you can. Try and rebuild your relationship with her mother to the point where you're allowed to be. Don't throw around psychological terminology or blame the mother for turning your child against you. When the mother insults you, learn to take it. Fight it, and you'll gain nothing and just end up putting your daughter in the middle.

This could take years, especially as your time with the daughter is so limited, but you may just have to hang on till she's an adult and is more willing to re-engage with you. The worst thing you could do between now and then is to either fall out of her life completely, or become "that guy who hates her mother".

  • Yes, I can use this, it is the kind of suggestions I'm looking for. Thanks.
    – PasserBy
    Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 16:36
  • No problem. They're just suggestions. I have no experience of divorce, except from a distance, but I've seen how much it can screw up parent-child relationships, and I hope you find a way to make it work.
    – deworde
    Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 18:40
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    Thinking about this the only problem I see with this is that if the mother is actively trying to remove the father then mail may be intercepted as well as emails. Depends on how active the mother is in this, so it could just end up with another situation where the daughter needs to choose whom to believe.
    – MichaelF
    Commented Nov 25, 2011 at 13:36
  • Which is why I also recommended trying to rebuild the relationship with the mother. Doesn't have to be sent. Giving it to her at the end of the visit would be better, if anything.
    – deworde
    Commented Nov 25, 2011 at 22:48
  • "Try and rebuild your relationship with her mother to the point where you're allowed to be. [..] Fight it, and you'll gain nothing and just end up putting your daughter in the middle." This may be dangerous advice. If the mother means well and is just frustrated, this is a good approach. However, if the mother is actually actively trying to sabotage the father-daughter relationship (which unfortunately does happen), then giving in will only make things worse - bullies need to be shown their boundaries. Which case applies here is for OP to judge.
    – sleske
    Commented May 28, 2018 at 9:07

Being the child of divorced parents and looking at your question I'd say you need more time with your daughter. Intermittent contact and less than two hours a week of face time, if I am reading your question and adding it up right, means not much contact. If your contact is that limited then it's easy for the other party to say that you don't love your daughter or you would spend more time with her. Increase your time with her, ask her where she wants to go and take her places she enjoys, get her comfortable and in a setting she enjoys and or might be talkative. It's easy to build trust, but once removed it's doubly hard to rebuild and with PAS it's going to be more difficult if the other party is actively trying to subvert you. Nothing builds up a relationship like alone time and showing you care.

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    As an aside, it may be that legal recourse is going to be necessary at some point, otherwise you will be dealing with a limited access window that in the long term may not help you.
    – MichaelF
    Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 14:19
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    I'd be concerned that taking her mum to court might be more damaging in the long term than waiting it out till she gets older, but I can see that it might be necessary. I'd certainly recommend doing everything else possible first.
    – deworde
    Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 18:39
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    It depends, my parents divorce was anything but civil and my brother was sort of in my Dad's sphere of influence and my brother and mother NEVER had a good relationship. Keeping the communication lines open is the best way, but it all depends on how your ex-wife wants you out of the picture. Court is not always an attractive option, but in some ways showing you are fighting to have more time with your daughter is one way to show you care. It all depends on how you spin it.
    – MichaelF
    Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 18:52
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    Taking legal action to acquire more time with your daughter, more custody without mom's presence etc. Will show your daughter you want to spend more time with her too. My uncle took the tac you are taking now with two of my dearest cousins and it wasn't until his funeral we ever saw them again, even then, they attended but seemed rather cold toward their Dad. Once they left for college the decision was in their hands but their mother had had such an impact that they refused to speak with him, see him or even receive his letters. They are no longer themselves either. FIGHT! FIGHT FOR HER Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 15:01
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    I agreed with balanced mama. For whoever is reading this, if you are complacent in a situation like this you won't get to see your kids. Maybe it wasn't your decision, but if you are so concerned with how divorce will affect you children, why get divorced? It doesn't matter really. If it's done, time to accept that this is something you have to go through as a family if you want to see your daughter.
    – user27219
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 0:10

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