Parental alienation is a very controversial topic within the Brazilian legal system and, in 2010, it was enacted the Law number 12.318, which regulates this matter.
But what exactly is parental alienation? According to that act, it is every interference in the psychological formation of the child or adolescent, promoted or induced by those who have the child or adolescent under their authority, that repudiates the other parent or that causes damage to the establishment or maintenance of bonds with that other parent.
This statute gives us examples of alienation, such as making it difficult to contact the parent, deliberately omitting relevant personal information about the child or adolescent – including education, health, and address changes, among others.
One of the examples given by the statutory law is “moving the domicile to a distant place, without justification, aiming to make it difficult for the child or adolescent to live with the other parent, with their family members or with grandparents”, a situation which occurs very frequently with international families, and in cases of child abduction.
It is important to note that any person with authority and influence over the child or adolescent can exercise this abusive practice, not occurring only among ex-spouses and parents.
When a situation of parental alienation occurs, a lawsuit can be proposed that will have a priority procedure, with measures to bring the minor closer to the alienated parent to be determined, such as visitations, whether virtual or in person.
During the lawsuit, it will be produced a psychological expert evidence, so to define the existence of abuse, in addition to its extent.
In the end, once verified the parental alienation, the judge can impose sanctions on the alienator, ranging from a warning to suspension of parental authority, and it may even lead to criminal proceedings. Likewise, when characterized as an abusive change of address or obstruction of the relation with one parent and his/her family, the minor may even be removed from the alienator’s custody.
This theme is also briefly reflected in the Federal Constitution and in the Statute of the Child and Adolescent.
However, even with its regulation, there are adversities in the application of the law. Many parents and holders of parental authority use that authority seeking to satisfy their personal desires, due to problems in the past relationship, putting their children in an uncomfortable position. There are also difficulties in proving parental alienation because the abuse is not always clear, existing a fine line between alienation and bad motherhood/fatherhood.
With relocation, parental alienation is more common in international families.
Due to difficulties presented by the Brazilian judicial system, it becomes sometimes easy for the alienator to practice those acts against the parent who is separated from the child.
In that context, the person who has authority over the minor fails to pass on information and consult the parent who is in another country about important aspects, such as education, health, religion issues, etc., they also fail to account for the child’s expenses, which is not acceptable.
The parent, even if it is not the guardian of the child, does not lose his/her authority as a parent, and his/her position on all issues related to the lives of the children must always be considered and decided jointly by both parents. When the parents do not reach a decision together, the judge is led to decide by them.
Also, children and adolescents must have cultural exchange with the countries of residence of both parents, so that, when appropriate, they can make their choices based on their wishes and their own experiences.
Thus, although there has been a standardization of the aspects related to the institute of parental alienation, there are, in practice, difficulties in the compliance to the law, in addition to the reflexes being harder in families whose parents are of different origins and reside in different countries. However, with the effort of committed professionals, it is possible to reverse this situation aiming a healthy coexistence between parents and children.