Cafcass – the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service – have released new guidance designed to help their welfare officers identify and appropriately assess cases which may feature “parental alienation”.
For many years now, those charged with looking after children’s welfare have been aware of parental alienation in family law proceedings, which has been supplemented by a growing interest and concern from both parents and the family court system. Many non-resident parents feel that their former partner may be actively discouraging and obstructing quality contact between the child and the non-resident parent.
Parental alienation is widely described as a situation where a child has been deliberately manipulated, coerced or otherwise pressured to align themselves to the resident parent by that parent. This can result in an intractable contact dispute and as a consequence, the child has little or no contact with the non-resident parent.
Whilst acknowledging there is no single definition of the concept, Cafcass have now taken the step of providing their own formal definition of parental alienation:
when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.
To tackle the problem, Cafcass propose nuanced and holistic assessment, allowing them to understand the children’s unique experiences and how they are affected by these behaviours.
While not restricted to alienation, Cafcass note that behaviours and indicators can include: a parent constantly badmouthing or belittling the other, limiting contact, forbidding discussion about the non-resident parent and creating the impression that the other parent dislikes or does not love the child.
In tackling the issue, Cafcass seeks to deal with parental alienation cases in the following way:
• Firstly, in recognising that the starting point is the identification of risk of harm.
• Acknowledging that harm includes emotional harm to the child in the context of parental alienation.
• Assessing whether it is safe and in the best interests of the child to have contact with one or both parents, taking in to account of the risk factors, evidence based assessments, diversity issues, and the child’s resilience and vulnerabilities
If you would like to parental alienation or other legal disputes relating to your children following the breakdown of a relationship, contact one of our expert family solicitors today on 01234 88977 or 0207 177 9777 for a free consultation. Serving rural and central Bedford, together with the City of London, our lawyers can help you with all your family law matters.