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Parental Alienation: Why you need a lawyer who understands the implications

Published on 30 November 2016 | Modified on 6 December 2022

Written by Stacey Bennett
Child Solicitors

Leading family Lawyer, Richard Barratt, head of Poole Alcock’s divorce and family team, looks at the issue of parental alienation following on from Victoria Derbyshire’s recent programme on the BBC which discussed the highly emotive subject of Parental Alienation.

According to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) 5% of children involved in divorce or separation will experience some level of what is known as ‘implacable hostility’ or ‘parental alienation’. This equates officially to some 5,000 children, although leading family practitioners are of the view that the figure is closer to 20,000 children in real terms.

This phenomenon is widely documented in the US and Canada, where courts take a hands-on approach, and in Mexico and Brazil where ‘Parental Alienation’ is now recognised as a criminal offence carrying a 15 year jail term. Campaign groups are calling for legislators in England and Wales to follow suit and for this type of behaviour to be considered a form of psychological abuse and dealt with as a criminal offence.

What is Parental Alienation?

In high conflict cases parental alienation can take place when one parent undermines the other parent in front of the child, or promotes a negative view of the parent to the child. This manipulating behaviour can be present at the outset and is often not addressed by the courts. This can be extremely damaging for the alienated parent and the child. CAFCASS have acknowledged that in more and more cases it can be so severe that it becomes emotionally harmful to the child. Due to the complexity, a robust approach is needed by your legal team to ensure the right specialist expert, for example a psychologist, is instructed at the earliest opportunity before this belief system is ingrained in the child.

Rightly so, the courts’ focus in family matters is always what is in the best interests of the child. As part of this process the courts will turn to CAFCASS or the independent social worker, if there is one, to investigate and report upon the ‘ascertainable wishings and feelings of the child’. In cases where a child has been unduly influenced and manipulated by a parent it is vital that you have a lawyer who acknowledges the existence, and understands the implications, of parental alienation and is able to draw the courts attention to it and challenge it appropriately.

It is vital that potential parental alienation is recognised at an early stage and that the court is reminded of their powers to fact-find beyond just the ‘expressed’ wishes and feelings of the child and to consider the need for specialist experts. This can help to prevent a ‘no contact’ order being made or to be allowed to continue, therefore avoiding the creation of a ‘status quo’ for the child, from which the courts may be reluctant to depart.

In a recent case Lady Justice Macur held; *‘Parents who obstruct a relationship with the other parent are inflicting untold damage on their children and it is, in my view, about time that professionals truly understood this’. Poole Alcock’s Richard Barratt, Cheshire’s leading divorce lawyers, is well aware of these issues; “In cases where parental alienation is present this adds another layer of complexity to the case. However, fortunately for our clients this is something we are always mindful of at Poole Alcock. We understand the implications to the case and we can advise our clients on the best way to overcome these issues and reach the best outcome for both their children and them”.

Call our Freephone number01270 625478 (24/7, 7 days a week) and arrange to meet with an expert Family Law Solicitor for a free, no obligation, initial consultation at one of our offices and discuss your options.

We have a Specialist Family Law Solicitor at each of our offices below:

Nantwich | Sandbach | Crewe | Congleton | Alsager

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