02 November, 2020
Parental alienation has recently been discussed by the Law Society Gazette. It is a process, the result of which is a psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent.
Sadly, this term has been increasingly used in many family law cases before the court. It is often described as 'the unwarranted rejection of the alienated parent and an alignment with the alienating parent, characterised by the child's extreme negativity toward the alienated parent due to deliberate or unintentional actions of the alienating parent'.
The Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service, CAFCASS who we work with and receive instructions from at Forbes have a working definition which is 'When a child's resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent'.
CAFCASS has a positive co-parenting programme which aims to promote positive change, improve communication between parents and restore the focus on the child in cases which have become highly conflicted and may include parental alienation. The programme is currently a pilot and lasts for 12 weeks, it includes the parents and children.
Identifying when parental alienation is really happening is a skill of an experienced family lawyer, possibly an expert and of course the court.
The starting point of the assessment to determine parental alienation is an assessment to consider risk factors, diversity issues, the child's resilience, and vulnerabilities. The risk of emotional harm may amount to a child protection issue.
The court carefully balances decisions to ensure that not only the children but also the adults are kept safe, and that the children are able to maintain relationships with both parents where it is safe and in the child's best interests.
At Forbes we have a specialist family law team who are able to assist with any issues.