U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

U.S. child custody outcomes in cases involving parental alienation and abuse allegations: what do the data show?

NCJ Number
JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WELFARE LAW Volume: 42 Issue: 1 Dated: 2020 Pages: 92-105
Date Published
14 pages

Since family-court and abuse professionals have long been polarized over the use of parental alienation claims to discredit a mother alleging that the father has been abusive or is unsafe for the children, this paper reports the findings from an empirical study of 10 years of U.S. cases involving abuse and alienation claims.


The findings confirm that mothers’ claims of abuse, especially child physical or sexual abuse, increase their risk of losing custody, and that fathers’ cross-claims of alienation virtually double that risk. Alienation’s impact is gender-specific; fathers alleging mothers are abusive are not similarly undermined when mothers cross-claim alienation. In non-abuse cases, however, the data suggest that alienation has a more gender-neutral impact. These nuanced findings may help abuse and alienation professionals find some common ground. (Publisher Abstract)


Date Published: January 1, 2020