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Between affection and penalty: a critique of the punitive approach to parental alienation


This article has a twofold objective. First, it intends to develop critical thinking regarding both the concept of and the legal approach to parental alienation in Brazil. Second, it aims to demonstrate that Therapeutic Companionship (“TC”), i.e., psychological support provided in social settings, can be an effective tool in dealing with complex issues arising from disputes in high-conflict families. Moreover, our work makes an interdisciplinary use of Law and Psychoanalysis in order to meet the demands of the family and the judiciary. In fact, it is in light of establishing a dialogue between Law and Psychoanalysis that we have elaborated our critique of the current Brazilian legislation and case law. Going a step further, the article takes on a normative, propositional character to suggest how the Brazilian judicial attitude might change. Therefore, the work presents new ways of dealing with parental alienation that, if implemented, should obviate legislative reform. Our idea, under the umbrella of TC, is to provide psychological support to the whole family, as well as to facilitate visitation. The best interpretation of the Parental Alienation Law would reject a repressive or punitive orientation in favor of a relational one, as proposed by Psychoanalysis.

Parental alienation; psychological counseling; visitation rights; therapeutic companionship; Law and Psychoanalysis

Fundação Getulio Vargas, Escola de Direito de São Paulo Rua Rocha, 233, 11º andar, 01330-000 São Paulo/SP Brasil, Tel.: (55 11) 3799 2172 - São Paulo - SP - Brazil