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What is Malicious Parent Syndrome and What Do You Do If It is Affecting Your Family?


“Malicious Parent Syndrome” occurs when one parent seeks to punish the other parent for their anger regarding the divorce or other changes in life circumstances by speaking badly about the other parent or engaging in behavior or set-ups that intentionally place the targeted parent in a bad light, especially when the negative situations unfold in the view or awareness of the children involved. Some people will interchangeably refer to this as parental alienation syndrome but many experts will say that the two syndromes actually have some distinct characteristics.

Some people having a difficult time processing through the end of their relationship or even the divorce process will experience negative, damaging emotions such as anger, rage, resentment and they will focus on an opportunity to “get even” for their disappointment that the relationship is not remaining intact or other wrongs that they may perceive being the victim of. When a spouse begins to turn these emotions toward damaging the other parent as a war or way of getting even, it can rise to the level of Malicious Parent Syndrome.

This is not labeled as a mental disorder because it is not in the DSM manual of psychiatric conditions. Rather, this syndrome was coined by a psychologist many years ago who wished to describe the damaging, destructive behavior they were observing on the part of one parent toward the other parent through divorce proceedings. The psychologist characterized it as the acting parent engaging in purposeful, vengeful manner toward the other parent, even on occasions being willing to break or push the boundaries of the law to try to destroy the parent-child relationship or at a minimum, dramatically undermine the bonded relationship between the child and the other parent.

Some examples of the behavior that a parent with malicious parent syndrome will engage in includes:

  • Denying the other parent the information about the child’s school or extracurricular activities and then emphasizing that the parent did not show up to support the child;
  • Denying the child phone access to the other parent during visits and failing to even inform the child of missed calls or messages so the parent can paint the appearance that the targeted parent did not reach out.
  • Denying regular parenting time or visitation between the targeted parent and the child and then implying to the child that the targeted parent is not making an effort to see him or her;
  • Telling the child direct lies about the other parent such as in the example above, emphasizing that the parent failed to appear to an activity he or she was notified about;
  • Lying to other people in the community to create a negative perception of the targeted parent and create a situation where other people, including friends or acquaintances shun the targeted parent;
  • Engaging in endless litigation, often where the acting parent makes repeated false allegations against the targeted parent to such an extent that the targeted parent may run out of money trying to defend the repetitive accusations raised;
  • In the most extreme situations, the acting parent can allow actual damage or harm to occur to the child, all in the effort of making the other parent appear negatively or to give the child additional things to blame against the targeted parent.

If you have a situation where you believe Malicious Parent Syndrome is occurring, it is best combated with a strong response, as soon as concerns become clear. Damaging a child’s relationship with another parent with whom he or she is bonded can create bonded attachment issues for the child, even into adulthood. If you believe you are a victim of malicious parent syndrome, it is crucial that you get a knowledgeable attorney involved as soon as possible to guide you on appropriate steps and resources to put into place to combat the other parents efforts. No matter how complex or difficult your case is, we have the knowledge, experience and skills to help you. Call Pingel Family Law today at (816) 208-8130 to schedule your consultation and see how you can put our firm to work for you and your family.