What’s The Difference Between Parental Alienation and Estrangement?

Chances are you’ve heard both the terms ‘estrangement’ and ‘parental alienation’. However not everyone knows what the difference is, and how it can impact your relationship with your children. So let’s take a look at what the two different terms really mean, and what you need to know if either of these are issues affecting your relationship with your children here in Michigan.

A black and white graphic of a little girl releasing a heart shaped red balloon that's floating away from her into the air.


The word estrangement essentially means what it looks like – stranger. When someone you used to know and love slowly becomes estranged from you, it means they separate themselves from you. They are no longer are intimate or affectionate, and you’re no longer involved in each other’s lives. In essence, you have become strangers.

When this happens between parents and children, it’s usually because there was some kind of rift created in the relationship. For example, if the parent was abusive, as soon as the child is able to, they choose to have nothing to do with that parent. Or if the child has an ongoing problem with drugs and no attempts at intervention have worked, the parent may choose to separate themselves from the child in an effort to protect themselves and the rest of the family.

Parental Alienation:

This is when there is a rift created between a child (or children) and one of their parents. However, it’s done intentionally, usually by the other parent as a form of revenge. In this scenario, one parent will poison their children against the other parent in the wake of a divorce. They do this by telling them terrible things about the other parent, or representing them as an unsafe or ‘evil’ person.

Courts are slowly becoming more and more aware of this phenomenon. And while it can be hard to prove except in extreme cases, it can result in the toxic parent losing all access to their children. Parental alienation can be achieved by sharing painful (and often untrue) details about the other parent’s wrong doing. Or by telling the child that the other parent is to blame for all of the hardships they are facing, or things they are forced to go without.

How to deal with estrangement:

If you are estranged from your children, and it’s not something you chose (meaning they chose to separate themselves from you), then the only way to address the issue to deal with whatever problem caused the rift. Then reach out in the hope of reconciliation. 

If you harmed your children when they were young, or made life choices that caused them pain, you can get some therapy, and make some changes. Then offer them a sincere apology and the promise that you have changed. However, only they can decide if the relationship is worth repairing.

How to deal with parental alienation:

This one allows you a little more control, as you can see it happening if you pay attention and step in before it’s too late. If you’re afraid your ex is poisoning your kids against you, be sure to document every single example of the suspected alienation. This includes your children’s changing feelings towards you, and things you hear your ex say to them or in front of them about you. 

Then talk to your mid-Michigan divorce attorney and find out what your options are. You may be able to request a modification of custody based on your concerns about parental alienation, or at least bring it to the court’s attention, which may help with future requests for visitation or custody modifications.

The Kronzek Firm can help you with parental alienation issues

Here at The Kronzek Firm, our experienced family law attorneys have helped many parents over the years who’ve had to deal with toxic exes and children being poisoned against them. It’s an issue that judges in the Ingham, Eaton and Clinton County family courts don’t look kindly on, as it ruins relationships. If you suspect your ex is trash talking you to your kids, call 866 766 5245 right now to set up your free zoom or phone consultation. We’re here to help!