5 Jul 2019Read more
When parents separate, a child is entitled to a relationship with both of his or her parents, and contact is vital in terms of the child’s successful, long-term emotional development. It follows then that contact should only be terminated in exceptional circumstances.
But sadly there are times when one parent will go to extreme lengths to prevent the other from having contact with their child(ren). Parental alienation, as it has come to be known, is a term that has been used with increasing frequency in the debate over child contact, following the separation of the child(ren)'s parents. It is, in effect, the phenomenon whereby one parent poisons their child against the other, the ultimate aim of which is to persuade the child to exclude, permanently, that parent from their life. However, It is important to note that there is still no universally accepted definition of the term.
The Children Act 1989 recognises this at Section 2A where there is a presumption that, unless the contrary is shown, the involvement of a parent in the life of the child concerned will further the child’s welfare.
"The termination of a child’s contact is always a last resort, and should only be considered when it is clear that it would not be in the child’s welfare interests to pursue it."
In situations where the parent who has the care of the child seeks to turn that child against the other parent, in order to prevent contact taking place. CAFCASS has introduced a High Conflict Pathway to try to manage such cases. It is worth noting what The Right Honourable Lord Justice McFarlane, President of the Family Division, said in his keynote address to the Families Need Fathers Conference in June 2018:
"From my experience as a first instance judge, albeit now more than seven years ago, I readily accept that in some cases a parent can, either deliberately or inadvertently, turn the mind of their child against the other parent so that the child holds a wholly negative view of that other parent where such a negative view cannot be justified by reason of any past behaviour or any aspect of the parent-child relationship. Further, where that state of affairs has come to pass, it is likely to be emotionally harmful for the child to grow up in circumstances which maintain an unjustified and wholly negative view of the absent parent. Page 6 of The Women’s Aid research describes accusations of parental alienation being used against women who raise concerns about domestic abuse, to the extent that allegations of abuse are “obscured by allegations of parental alienation against the non-abusive parent."
Let's take a look at the case of D (child – parental alienation) The court considered the CAFCASS Pathway and the typical behaviours exhibited in parental alienation, which include:
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