Bruna Lopes (Student)
The definition for parental alienation as stated by Cafcass is” When a child’s resistance / hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.” This definition has received recent approval from the Court of Appeal in Re S (Parental Alienation: Cult)  EWCA Civ 568,  2 FLR 263, who added to it that the manipulation of the child need not be malicious or even deliberate. It is the process that matters, and not the motive, though the alienating parent’s motive is important and can inform the court’s decision.”
While parental alienation cases are difficult to identify and present a hard job for legal practitioners, professionals have identified signs that alienation is taking place. It is almost fundamental to act on cases of parental alienation very early on, if not irreversible damages could be done to the alienated parent’s relationship with the child. Consequently, both the child and the alienated parent’s well-being are compromised.
If you fear you are becoming the alienated parents, there are some signs you can look for. If your child is unjustifiably and constantly criticizing you, it could mean you are being alienated. Usually, the child will have no specific examples of things you have done wrong and/or said, and mostly no justification for the criticism or the child could start presenting false or illogical reasoning. Your child, when asked, can make claims that their criticisms are their own based on their own opinion. The reality is that the alienating parent may have encouraged the child to behave and think this way. Another sign to look out for is if the child starts using terms and phrases that only come from adults. Often children will bring up events that happened before they were even born, or simply create a fictional story. If your child’s feelings towards you are all or most of them are negative, it could mean you are being alienated.
Signs that your ex-partner is alienating you:
- One parent makes efforts to have excessive contact with the child, especially during the other parents bonding time.
- One parent is suggesting to the child that the other does not possess feelings for them, they might suggest to the child that the other parents does not love or care for them.
- One parent is deliberately making unfound allegations against the other parent. These allegations can extend to the child and others.
- One parent is portraying the other to the child in a hurtful, degrading, and negative way.
If you recognise these signs early there is a greater chance of reversing the effects of the influence of the other parent on your child. Firstly, it is important to understand that the priority in these cases is the safety and well-being of the child. The longer your child is exposed to the bad influence, the longer it will take to reverse the effects.
If you think you are being alienated and you would like to start court proceedings, you should start by finding the right professionals for your case. Under section 7 of the Children Act 1989, performance reports can only be released after a fact-finding hearing. Without fact-finding hearings, those who may be called upon to make recommendations to the court on child welfare issues, whether they be Cafcass officers, independent social workers, or guardians, are doing their work without a factual basis. Serious accusations against parents are a classic case of parental alienation, and it is common for children to say loudly that they do not want to see the accused parent. It is difficult for personal protection professionals to draw any conclusions without properly evaluating the veracity or otherwise of these claims. In addition to the S.7 report, other reports are also helpful. It may also require psychotherapy and intervention for the parent and/or child.
Fact Finding Hearing
The first step you should take is to seek for an early fact-finding hearing.Before entering any court proceedings, it is important to prove the allegations are untrue. While there is still no official regulation for parent alienation in the United Kingdom, family courts will step in if your child’s safety and well-being is under threat. That being said, the assumption from courts is always that the child having contact with both parents is aways the best option. Legal practitioners consider the merits of mediation or collaborative practice to resolve the issue of parental alienation. This is a less formal, non-adversarial process that can help to reduce the impact of parental alienation on the child. It can also help to rebuild the relationship between the parents and the child and can be an effective way to resolve the problem without resorting to a court battle.
If you think mediation is not a viable option for you then there are legal options you can take. It is advised you seek legal advice as quickly as you can. You could apply for a child arrangements order. This application will allow you to spend time with your child and/or they can live with you.
If the circumstances are more serious, you apply for a prohibited steps order. You can apply for a prohibited steps order if you believe your co-parents is capable or is trying of moving away with your child without you knowing; change your child’s name or make other personal changes like the school they frequent, without your knowledge. Cafcass workers will supervise contact and meetings with both parents, and more fundamentally they will speak to the child and asses their wishes and needs. If necessary, a psychological analysis can also be conducted.
In all cases of parental alienation, where any situation where a parent is estranged, assessing the child’s needs and securing their safety, it number one priority. Of course, There are clearly difficulties in dealing with the desires and feelings of children in alienation cases. The views expressed by the child, no matter how strong they may seem, could be those of the alienating parent, not the child. The list in section 1 of the Children Act 1989 requires courts to consider not children expressed wishes, but their identifiable wishes and feelings, considering their age and understanding. Simply reporting what a child says without examining how and why he said it has been described as superficial and naïve.. Courts can rely heavily on close observation by commissioned experts who will be able to guide children’s responses and better understand their backgrounds. The court has a duty to keep in active contact during and after proceedings. Courts review evidence not to determine who is “culprit,” but to determine how best to ensure the best interests of the child; the child’s welfare comes first. In reaching conclusions about the parents’ conduct, the court first engages in arguments with the parents, trying to persuade them to choose the right path for their children; it only orders when it is best not to order. If an order is required, the court can change the child’s situation to allow the child to be transferred from one parent to the other, and cases in recent years have increasingly shown that courts are willing to do so.
It has been stated that the court will always assume that the best-case scenario for a child is to have both parents present in a healthy relationship. However, when cases do not have the conditions to fulfil the requirements to have both parents present in the child life, and one of the parents is not willing to cooperate, problems arise. Nevertheless, if visitation preparations aren’t met, a dormant order requiring the child to transport to the estranged parent may suffice and attain the favoured ending and resumption of the connection with the estranged parent. Likewise, contact orders with intense and serious consequences for violations may be successful.
Here at SULAC we can help with Child Arrangement Orders. If you would like an appointment please call 01782 294800 or email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk.