Hostile Aggressive Parenting, also known as HAP, is a pattern of behavior that acts in conflict with a child’s best interest and can constitute as abuse or maltreatment. Generally Hostile Aggressive Parenting is exhibited in child custody cases where there is high conflict, the parents are unable to co-parent, or the parents differ greatly in their parenting styles. The HAP parent uses their behavior to align a child caught in a dispute with them and to effectively turn the child away from the target parent. Parents that act out in HAP will generally do everything in their power to cause interference in between the child and the other parent. Furthermore Hostile Aggressive Parenting is the pattern of behavior that leads to Parental Alienation Syndrome or characteristics exhibited by the child that they prefer one parent over the other as a direct result of HAP.

A party exhibiting Hostile Aggressive Parenting may exhibit one or more of the following characteristics:

• Badmouthing, disrespecting, or demeaning the target parent in front of the children.
• Refusing to answer phone calls when the target parent calls.
• Using the children’s feelings of guilt or sympathy in their favor- treating the children as a pawn in a game.
• Manipulating the child into not answering the phone when it rings- through threats or treat incentives.
• Using the child as a weapon against the target parent or other family members.
• Consistently telling the target parent that the child does not wish to speak to them.
• Encouraging the child to defy the other parent intentionally.
• Or encourage a child to legally alter their last name from connection with the target parent.
• Prevent a child’s access to belongings coming from the target parents’ home.
• Make false claims of parental conflict while doing nothing to reduce conflict.
• Threaten a child with loss of love if aligning with the target parent.
• Take children to their own doctors/ psychologist/ therapist without permission of the other parent and or convincing a professional to write disparaging remarks against the other parent without cause or proof.
• Failing to participate or preventing participation in additional visitation outside of court ordered visitation.
• Failing to include the target parent in life events, school, summer schedule, holidays, etc.
• Consistently selling or discarding gifts or belongings of the child coming from the target parent.
• Intercepting letters or mail communications coming from the target parent or the target parent’s family members.
• Abusive forms of questioning – tape recording children for coerced and/or rehearsed questions and answers.

For a complete list of behaviors concerning HAP consult a psychologist or mental healthcare professional or consult ( to evaluate the approximate level of Hostile Aggressive Parenting taking place. In situations that a party feels that a psychologist or health care official may need to intervene it is important to consult an attorney or court system on how the appointment should take place.

Hostile Aggressive Parenting not limited to Custodial Parents:

Although HAP has been more commonly documented by the custodial parent it is not necessarily limited to the custodial parent. Hostile Aggressive Parenting may take place amongst any party concerning the child, non-custodial parent, girlfriend, boyfriend, step parent, grand parent, aunt, or uncle, etc. A common misconception is that the target parent is actually the hostile aggressive parent as the hostile aggressive parent can manipulate the child and situations to make the target parent appear to be interfering in custodial arrangements. A HAP parent or any other individual acting out with HAP behaviors intends to cause emotional and psychological harm to the child to attack the target parent at any cost.

Characteristics of a Possible Hostile Aggressive Parent / Guardian:

• Controlling and or bullying personalities.
• Mild or severe personality disorders.
• Failure to advance within their own life- arrested development or “failure to launch”.
• Attempts to control ex-spouses life or target parent.
• Antisocial behavior.
• Abused / bullied as a child and or abusive toward the target parent.
• Narcissism or infallibility.

How to Handle a Case Concerning a Hostile Aggressive Parent:

1) Inform the HAP Parent

Inform the HAP Parent via certified letter or attorney that the behaviors in which they are displaying are not in the best interest of the child and need to cease immediately. A HAP parent may claim lack of knowledge that the events were taking place. By informing the other parent of what is occurring than you are able to document and hold the HAP parent accountable for the issues at hand. A HAP parent may resist acceptance of such letters or completely deny that the events occur; however, the correspondences will generate a paper trial for the courts of what is occurring and what has transpired.

2) Document

Document any behavior by the HAP parent that demonstrates that they are committing such behaviors associated with Hostile Aggressive Parenting. Obtain affidavits from individuals witnessing the HAP parent’s behaviors, obtain copies of emails or text messages proving events occurred, and or produce tape recordings if possible of the HAP parents behaviors.

3) In Cases of Emergency

In cases of emergency contact the police or emergency medical services.

4) Contact Child Protective Services

If the child is subjected to maltreatment or abuse it is important to contact child protective services and file a report. A Child protective service has the authority to provide wellness checks to ensure the safety and well-being of children and has the authority to investigate claims of child abuse or neglect. Information rendered as a result of investigation may be used in legal proceedings concerning child custody or visitation.

5) Avoid Actions that are Attributed with HAP

When dealing with a HAP parent it is important to remember that the HAP parent consistently blames the target parent for their actions and especially for the Hostile Aggressive Parenting. A HAP parent may claim that they only did what they did as a result of the target parent’s actions. This constant blame in combination with Hostile Aggressive Parenting behaviors leads to explosive situations that may incite anger and frustration in the target parent – which is the goal of the HAP parent’s behavior. The goal in their schemes is to ultimately control every aspect of your life through the child including your emotional reactions. It is important to keep a level head and to remember that if you demonstrate you will not “crack” than the HAP parent may become disinterested and try a different tactic- example if they are denying visitation they may allow visitation when they desire more control or conflict and then deny phone calls, etc. It is easy in circumstances concerning HAP behaviors to mimic HAP behaviors as a protective result. For example if a HAP parent is maltreating a child, engaging in abusive behaviors, and or limiting contact it is easy for a parent to instinctively withhold visitation without consulting the court and making it appear that they are the HAP parent. An HAP parent is intentionally acting out to receive a reaction from the target parent and may do things to incite conflict that are difficult to document— as they seek reactions from the target parent that are easier to document i.e. withholding of visitation, text denying phone calls, conversations that insinuate HAP.

6) File for a Contempt of Court Charge

If a current child custody order has a clause that stipulates that such behavior is prohibited under the order than the target parent may file for a contempt of court proceeding to enforce this part of the order. In most highly contested cases there is a clause included that neither party should attempt such behavior at risk of a modification of custody and contempt. In filing for contempt, if the HAP parent is found guilty, the court will enforce regulations to cease all actions concerning their HAP behavior. The court may sanction for the guilty party to pay attorney’s fees, fines, pay for therapy, punish the HAP parent with misdemeanor or felony, and or sentence the HAP parent to jail time. If a party is found guilty in contempt related to this matter than their contempt may substantiate a modification of custody during a separate hearing.

7) File for a Modification of Custody / Visitation

If a contempt of court is occurring concerning a HAP parent than their violation may warrant a modification of child custody or visitation. Also if a court order does not previously contain a clause prohibiting such behavior than the court may modify an order to include a clause if it is believed that such activity is taking place- which would make any such future activities a contempt of court. If the activity continues to take place the court can continue to make restrictions to visitation/ custody even to the point of sole custody and supervised visitation. The court take contempt’s relating to HAP vary seriously and it is important to make sure that no such activity is taking place as it acts against the standard of care and “best interest” of children in all circumstances.

8) Seek Therapist or Third Party Intervention

Typically following a court preceding a target parent may want to seek intervention. A court may find that premature therapist intervention may have attributed to further Hostile Aggressive Parenting and it may confuse which parent is conducting the Hostile Aggressive Parenting. Also a court may order/appoint for therapist intervention or a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to become involved in the case. If multiple therapists become involved it may make the situation more costly and complicated. Also if the therapy is mandated than the party responsible for the damage may need to pay for the fees associated with cost. It is believed that therapist intervention in combination with negative criminal repercussions is a positive deterrent of reoccurring Hostile Aggressive Parenting and associated disorders.