Whilst there is no single definition of parental alienation, Cafcass recognises it as ‘when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent’. Parental alienation is a concept the courts are being asked to grapple with more and more often.
If you are worried that your child is developing a very negative view of you and this negative view is without justification, then it may be that the other parent is alienating your child against you.
It is important to note that there may be a number of reasons why a child resists or refuses to spend time with a parent and that some of these reasons may be justified. Examples of justified resistance or refusal includes if a child has been harmed (either emotionally or physically) by a parent because of domestic abuse or if there has been other harmful parenting such as drug and alcohol misuse. Other examples include because they are aligned to one parent more than the other or because they have been exposed to conflict between their parents.
If the child’s views are unjustified, however, it could be that they have been alienated by the other parent. This is something that Cafcass can be asked to consider early on in the proceedings and should be dealt with by the court in a careful way – parental alienation can have a life-long impact on the child and the family and so cases involving parental alienation need to be managed robustly.
There are a number of things to look out for when considering whether parental alienation is a feature. This includes a child not being allowed the emotional space to express positive feelings about the other parent or being rewarded for expressing negative views. The Cafcass website sets out other examples, such as bad mouthing and 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.
There are a range of options available to the court in a parental alienation case. Examples seen in recent cases are as follows:
- Appointing a Guardian to represent the child
- Exploring whether a change of residence would be best for the child
- Suspending an order for a transfer of residence to allow the alienating parent to demonstrate change
- Therapeutic input for the child or the parents
- Targeted work for the alienating parent or work with the child
Cafcass has introduced something called the Child Impact Assessment Framework to build on existing guidance. This allows their Family Court Advisors (FCAs) to more easily identify issues such as parental alienation and how these issues can be understood and acted upon.
If you are worried that parental alienation may be happening within your family, our family barristers will be able to advise and represent you. Contact our clerks using our simple online form or call 01273 810011.
By Kirsten Japp | Family and Children