Parental Alienation During Separation and Divorce – Is a sea-change coming?

Relationship breakdown

posted: 14th February 2017

If you are an avid reader of our blogs then you may recall that we tackled the issue of parental alienation during separation and divorce proceedings back in September 2016.

Unfortunately, little has changed since that time and we still regularly encounter this heart-breaking issue from people seeking family law advice.

Parental alienation is essentially when a parent knowingly or unknowingly influences their child’s view on contact with, or even their opinion of, the other parent after the relationship has broken down.

We specialise in all aspects of family law, including children matters, and often represent parents who have been informed by an ex-partner that their child no longer wishes to see them.

This can be a daunting time for some who fear that the courts will simply uphold the apparent wishes and feelings of the child.

However, recent remarks from CAFCASS, the agency which looks after children’s interests in the family courts, indicate that there may finally be some light at the end of the tunnel.

Anthony Douglas, CAFCASS Chief Executive has spoken to the Telegraph and indicated that deliberate manipulation of a child by one parent against the other constitutes neglect or child abuse. Mr Douglas went so far as to say that:

“… the way you treat your children after a relationship has broken up is just as powerful a public health issue as smoking or drinking.”

CAFCASS is of the view that parental alienation is responsible for approximately 80% of the most difficult family law cases that come before the family courts.

Countries such as Mexico and Brazil have already recognised the long-term dangers of parental alienation during separation or divorce and have subsequently made it a criminal act.

As highlighted by Mr Douglas, there is no criminal law in the UK which prohibits parental alienation; however, we can, through the family courts, seek sanctions against parents who are, for example, deemed to be in breach of a Child Arrangements Order without justification.

Despite this, Mr Douglas commented that sanctions such as imprisonment are rarely used “… because ultimately the punishment on the parent will rebound on the child”.

That being said, here at PMC Family Law we are beginning to notice a sea-change. Judges are starting to recognise parental alienation and we have in fact secured orders for clients directing that if a child is not made available to spend time with their absent parent without just cause then they are to automatically live with that parent.

Grasping the nettle that is parental alienation will undoubtedly take time but it is encouraging that CAFCASS have spoken so openly about the issue.

If you are experiencing difficulties in maintaining a relationship with your child following a separation or divorce and fear that parental alienation may be a contributing factor it is important that you tackle matters quickly so as to minimise any harm to your child.

PMC Family Law is a close knit team of family law experts with experience in this field and we would be happy to help you. Call us now to arrange a free, no obligation initial appointment on 0151 375 9968.

By: Caroline Hamilton - Deputy Head of Department