When parents separate and one parent tries to turn the children against the other parent, with the aim of the child saying they don’t want contact with the other parent and thereby removing the other parent from the child’s life.
The CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) are to trial a new process to try and combat this issue within family cases.
Ultimately, and in extreme cases the Family Court could ban the parent from contact with their child.
The programme will work by offering the alienating parent intense therapy and the opportunity to change their behaviour. If the parent does not change, then the Court will consider restricting or refusing contact for months, not allowing the child to live with the parent or banning the parent from contact with their child.
This type of behaviour involving children is extremely damaging and harmful to them.
The Family Courts are recognising this behaviour now and that there is a spectrum of behaviour, with a range of behaviours being exhibited. This behaviour happens when parents separate or divorce and is different to the usual emotions and behaviour separating parents go through.
Parental alienation is now recognised as parental psychological abuse and family violence, against the core principles of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In the Family Courts in England and Wales CAFCASS have been expected to deal with cases of parental alienation as the cases come to them, there has been no co-ordinated approach.
From Spring 2018 CAFCASS caseworkers will be given a new set of guidelines called the ‘high conflict pathway’, which will include steps they must take then dealing with suspected parental alienation cases.
If the CAFCASS 12 week ‘Positive Parenting’ programme does not change the alienating parent’s behaviour, then psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health experts will be arranged and if the parent’s behaviour continues, contact with their child will be limited to supervised visits.
What can be done?
- Seek legal advice
- Issue an application to the Family Court
- Ask the Court to involve CAFCASS to assess whether parental alienation is taking place, using the ‘high conflict pathway’
- Remember the Children Act includes a presumption that contact will take place, unless it is not safe to do so.