How does Pennsylvania address the rights of children to be protected from parental alienation?

Pennsylvania's Approach to Parental Alienation

In Pennsylvania, the family court system recognizes the potentially damaging effects of parental alienation on children and addresses these concerns through various legal provisions. Parental alienation occurs when one parent consciously or unconsciously undermines the child's relationship with the other parent. This can result in the child expressing unwarranted fear, disrespect, or hostility toward the alienated parent, a scenario that Pennsylvania law strives to prevent.

Legal Framework and Custody Decisions

Under Pennsylvania law, custody decisions are made based on the best interests of the child. The state's custody statute, 23 Pa.C.S. ยง 5328, lists factors that courts must consider when determining custody arrangements. These factors include which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party, an indirect reference to the issue of parental alienation.

Recognition of Parental Alienation

The courts in Pennsylvania do not take allegations of parental alienation lightly. When evidence suggests that a child is being turned against one parent by the other, judges have the discretion to modify custody arrangements to protect the child's emotional well-being. This can include awarding primary custody to the alienated parent if it serves the child's best interests.

Intervention and Remedies

Pennsylvania courts may also order families to engage in therapy to address underlying issues related to parental alienation. Interventions can include individual counseling for the child, family therapy, or parenting classes for the alienating parent. In severe cases, a guardian ad litem may be appointed to represent the best interests of the child independently from either parent.

Historical References

Historically, Pennsylvania has demonstrated its commitment to addressing parental alienation through its evolving family law jurisprudence. In cases such as Bench v. Bench, Pennsylvania courts have acknowledged parental alienation syndrome and have considered it when making custody determinations.


Pennsylvania's legal system places a high priority on protecting children from parental alienation. Through careful consideration of custody factors, possible court-ordered interventions, and a focus on the best interests of the child, Pennsylvania strives to mitigate the harmful effects of parental alienation and promote healthy relationships between children and both parents.