Parental Alienation February 2020

Parental Alienation February 2020
13 Mar 2020

On 27 February 2020 the House of Commons Library published a Briefing Paper entitled: Children parental alienation and the role of Cafcass (England).

The issue of parental alienation has come to the fore in recent years, with more parliamentary questions than ever before being raised on the issue of parental alienation and the impact that it can have on children and how the Family Courts and Cafcass (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) can identify and address it.
With this increased parliamentary interest, we thought it was worth exploring- what is parental alienation?

There is currently no legislative provision either in the Children Act 1989 as amended or elsewhere that specifically addresses the issue of parental alienation or states what should happen if it occurs. That said, Cafcass Officers are being trained to recognise certain behaviour as being indicators of parental alienation, including:
• A parent constantly badmouthing or belittling the other;
• A parent limiting contact with a child;
• A parent forbidding the child to talk about the other parent;
• A parent creating the impression that the other parent does not love the child.

Apart from the negative psychological effect this behaviour can have on a child, Cafcass are often asked by Family Courts in proceedings to provide a report about a child’s ‘wishes and feelings’ which can be given significant weight by a Judge, depending on the age and understanding of the child.

Therefore, assessing whether a child has been influenced by a parent or whether parental alienation influences what a child tells a Cafcass Officer can be extremely important in determining the outcome of an application. Cafcass Officers have reported that most alienated children will hold strong views of their own, independent of those they may have been coached to hold. The role of Cafcass is to establish the impact of alienating behaviours on the child concerned, where these are present and to recommend to the courts what referrals, interventions and support is needed to end or lessen any harmful impact.

The breakdown of a relationship involving children can be extremely hard for all concerned and the negative impact of sustained conflict on children is well researched. Parental alienation is an example of how conflicting parents’ behaviour can impact on children and it is positive that it is being recognised and more time being given to considering how it can be addressed.
At Williams Thompson we recognise that a relationship breakdown can be an extremely emotional time and that it is important to have good, bespoke legal advice at the outset. We are committed to alternative dispute resolution options which can be offered through our Family Solicitor Mediators, but we are also able to provide advice, support and representation to parents who are considering making an application to the Family Courts in respect of their children.