The 2019 CAFCASS guidance provides the definition of ‘Parental Alienation’ to be ‘when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of a psychological manipulation by the other parent’.
Parental Alienation is a form of psychological abuse, becoming a more and more recognised concept within Children Act proceedings. Parental Alienation can take many forms such as;
- Promoting rejection of the other parent;
- Preventing contact from taking place;
- Failing to pass on cards, letters or presents from the other parent;
- Bad mouthing the other parent in front of the child;
- Excluding the other parent from involvement in the child’s life (parents evening, doctors appointments, etc).
In the hope of avoiding litigation, the alienated parent would usually attempt all avenues before seeking legal advice, in the hope that their former partner would have reduced their hostility towards them over time. Unfortunately, the more time that passes, the child remains in a potentially harmful environment damaging their emotional ties with the alienated parent.
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What help is out there?
Family Solicitors can assist in providing detailed advice on the best options available. This may vary from engaging in correspondence or filing an application with the Court on your behalf. Should you decide that litigation is the only option, it is vital that the matter is heard before the Court at the earliest opportunity. Depending upon the circumstances of the matter and what concerns are being raised, the Court may order expert evidence to be obtained (for example, medical evidence, police disclosure, Local Authority involvement), of which may cause further delay. Such however, would be required before the Court could make any determinations.
Involvement of third parties, such as Cafcass or the Local Authority, enable professionals to investigate concerns raised, and put forward recommendations to the Court upon their findings. Investigations could include contact with;
- The child’s school/nursery
- The child’s GP
- The child’s counsellor;
- The child’s child minder;
This enables a thorough report to be produced.
The child may be spoken to independently, depending upon their age, in order to obtain their wishes and feelings upon where they would prefer to live, however the professional involved will have to weigh up the risks and practicalities before finalising their report for the Court.
Third party professionals are trained to spot patterns of behaviour, whereby one parent is unable to promote the child’s relationship with the other parent, or even go further to frustrate any contact between them. Unfortunately, this is extremely harmful for the child, of which could even lead to change of residence, highlighting the Court’s power.
If you are concerned upon your former partner's behaviour having an impact on your relationship with your child, please do not hesitate to contact one of our friendly of child law solicitors for advice.