In a recent Instagram post, Pax Pitt, the adopted son of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, called his adoptive father “a terrible and despicable person”. Some of Brad Pitt’s friends have blamed Angelina for turning the children against him and carrying out “textbook parental alienation”. In this article, Head of Family Teena Dhanota-Jones discusses the issue of parental alienation and how it is addressed by the English courts.
In November 2023, Pax, now aged 19, posted on his Instagram account:
“Happy Father’s Day to this world class arsehole!! You time and time and again prove yourself to be a terrible and despicable person. You have no consideration or empathy toward your 4 youngest children who tremble in fear when in your presence. You will never understand the damage you have done to my family because you are incapable of doing so.”
Brad’s close friends have targeted Angelina for creating a divide between Brad and his children, effectively ‘playing games’ to discourage the children from seeing him. The couple has six children; the eldest three are adopted, and the youngest three are his biological children. The three eldest children have apparently refused to see him.
What is parental alienation?
The definition of parental alienation is as follows:
“When a child’s resistance/hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.”
If there are allegations of parental alienation, the court usually requires a report from an expert in the area of parental alienation. The court will rely on this report when determining the best outcome for the children. However, the court has to carry out a difficult balancing exercise, especially if they are effectively forcing a child to see the alienated parent.
The court can make draconian orders
The outcome of recent case law has shown that the court is prepared to make draconian orders if there is reliable evidence of alienation. In the most serious cases of alienation, children have been ordered to live with the alienated parent.
It should be noted that a ‘lives with’ order cannot be made after the child turns 18, so adult children can make their own decisions about seeing a parent or not. If an order is made to spend time with the alienated parent, an order after 16 will only be made if the circumstances are exceptional.
The harm to the child
The harm to a child who is a victim of parental alienation was succinctly put by Mr Justice Keehan in RH (Parental Alienation)  EWHC 2723 (Fam):
“Parental alienation is very harmful to a child. It skews the child’s ability to form any and all sorts of relationships and is not limited to the failed relationship with the other parent.”
Those advising parents on children disputes where there appears to be evidence of parental alienation must cite the impact on the child, as set out neatly above. This may focus the alienator’s mind about the detriment of their actions on their children and encourage them to desist.
If you require further information about divorce or any other family matter, please contact Teena Dhanota-Jones at [email protected].
Disclaimer: The above is merely general guidance and should not be relied on as formal advice. We suggest you take professional legal advice before taking any action in relation to the issues discussed above.