Parental Alienation - Cafcass Guidance
Cafcass Guidance on parental alienation cases including further linksRead more
Our experienced team of child law specialists has expertise in representing parents where parental alienation is alleged.
There is no definitive definition of parental alienation in the law of England and Wales.
Essentially, parental alienation refers to a situation where a family relationship involving children has broken down and where one parent will use negative and sometimes extreme behaviour to undermine the relationship between the child and the other parent. The aim is normally to cause the relationship between child and the other parent to break down.
The terminology parental alienation has become widespread in recent years, but the underlying concept is sadly not one that is new.
The concept of parental alienation is not new to the English Courts and such cases used to be referred to as ones involving the intractable hostility or implacable hostility by one parent to their child having any form of contact with the other parent.
This implacable hostility is referring to the situation from the perspective of the parent who is implacably opposing the relationship. Parental alienation is framed from the perspective of the child becoming alienated from their parent. But I think we can say that they are two sides of the same coin.
Parental alienation usually describes a situation where a child has been deliberately manipulated, coerced, or put under pressure to align themselves with one parent – against the other parent.
Parental alienation is a term which is increasingly used in cases where there is relationship breakdown. In the more on this topic – links below there is a link to the Cafcass guidance on parental alienation.
Cafcass recognise parental alienation as being when a child’s resistance or hostility towards their parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.
The Cafcass guidance is that parental alienation could be one of a number of reasons why a child rejects or resists spending time with a parent after their parents have separated. The Cafcass guidance is that all of the potential risk factors – which also include the child witnessing or being a victim of domestic abuse – must be adequately and safely considered and resolved.
Alienating behaviours can include consistently badmouthing or belittling the other parent, limiting contact, forbidding discussion about the other parent and creating the impression that the other parent dislikes or does not love the child.
In the more on this topic links below we have also included a link to some research from Brunel University, London which concerns abusive parents claiming that they are the victim of parental alienation in order to regain contact with their child.
There is also a link to an article in the Women’s Aid periodical – Safe which covers similar ground.
If a parent has been the victim of domestic abuse and if their child has also been the victim of that abuse or witness the abuse – then it is not surprising that they will be resistant to arrangements for contact with the other parent – which might place themselves or their child at risk of harm. It can also happen that hostile parent who has not been the victim of domestic abuse might claim domestic abuse as part of their efforts to undermine/alienate the child from the other parent.
Sometimes parents do not take responsibility for their actions and this feeds into the escalation of the problem.
When parents separate it is not uncommon for one or both parents to lose sight of the need for their children to maintain a positive and safe relationship with both parents.
Over the years we have seen many situations where, sadly, parents have become over involved in ongoing hostilities with each other. Based on the above, these negative behaviours can escalate into parental alienation – which is a form of child abuse. (Emotional abuse/neglect).
These are difficult cases – and a lot can turn on the facts. Where there are serious allegations made by either parent – the court is likely to schedule a finding of fact hearing.
At the finding of fact hearing the court will hear evidence from both parents and any witnesses and the court will then decide what has happened. Once the facts have been decided – the court will then be able to progress to a consideration of what steps are required to meet the welfare needs of the child.
Good preparation for a finding of fact hearing is extremely important. A badly prepared case could lead to allegations that are true being rejected as untrue by a court – if the evidence is not properly marshalled and the allegation is not proven. This can leave the parent who has not proved that allegations in an intolerable situation.
Preparation for a finding of fact hearing starts with a thorough consideration of the potential allegations and the evidence which may support them or be used to challenge them. Allegations need to be carefully and clearly framed. Because of the serious nature of allegations of parental alienation, we would strongly recommend that expert legal advice is sought at an early stage.
Ultimately, these are very sad cases. Unless there are good safety reasons – children will benefit from enjoying a positive relationship with both their parents. Most parents can find a way beyond negative feelings towards each other to make arrangements happen reasonably well.
These extreme scenarios can be avoided by parents focusing on the needs of their children, treating each other with respect, abiding by agreements, talking positive about the other parent (for the benefit of their children), being reasonable with arrangements, and where necessary seeking professional help to assist with their own feelings arising from the breakdown of their relationship.
Cafcass Guidance on parental alienation cases including further linksRead more
An article by Dr Adrianne Barnett for Women's Aid on the subject of parental alienation – published 28 April 2020Read more
Article from Brunel University London published 20 January 2020 about estranged (and abusive) fathers claiming parental alienation to gain time with their children.Read more
Parental Alienation is a complex issue – contact one of our expert children law specialist solicitorsRead more
It is a common concern that on divorce wives fare worse financially than husbands. The main argument goes that even today in most marriages husbands are the ‘primary’ breadwinner, and that as a result wives have, on averageRead more
Some argue that the New Year is the busiest time of the year for new divorces, with many people apparently deciding to ‘do away with the old’ and make a new start in life by getting divorced.Read more
As we prepare to say a perhaps not-so-sad farewell to the difficult year 2020, it is time to look forward to the year to come. Of course, much of what may happen in the world of family law in 2021 will have to wait to be seen.Read more
It is traditional at this time of year to look back over the previous twelve months and reflect upon what has happened, although many will not wish to look back at the year 2020. It has, to say the least, been a difficult year.Read more
Despite the challenges in the wider world, 2020 has been an incredible year for us as a practice. We have moved office, and pretty much doubled in size as a business. We have also been recognised in the Legal 500 as being a leading familyRead more
A group of family justice experts has published a report outlining proposals to deliver what it calls “a significant and ambitious programme of reform” of the system for resolution of disputes between separating couples in England and WalesRead more
We are absolutely delighted to welcome Alice Beck to our team. Alice joined us today from fellow Devon Legal 500 Practice – Kitsons. Alice trained with Kitsons and upon qualification chose to specialise in family law.Read more
Anyone involved in financial remedy proceedings to sort out the financial settlement on divorce will come across the term ‘FDR’. But what does it mean? Well, for a start it has nothing to do with a certain famous American President.Read more
Christmas can be a notably fraught time for separated families with young children. Both parents want to spend as much time as possible with the children, and everyone is determined to have a good time.Read more
When parents separate they will have to sort out arrangements for their children, in particular as to what time the children will spend with each parent. Hopefully, they will be able to do this by agreement. But if they can’t agree mattersRead more
Family court proceedings can be expensive. That is why every reasonable effort should be made to resolve family disputes out of court. But sometimes this is simply not possible.Read more
We are very sorry to announce the retirement of David Howell-Richardson. David joined us as a consultant solicitor in April 2018 after a long legal career in Devon – predominantly with Stones Solicitors in Exeter (who eventually merged witRead more