Unfortunately, as family lawyers, we are seen more cases involving parents during separation who are feeling they are being alienated from their children by the other parent.
It is first important to understand what parental alienation actually means – CAFCASS (who are the ‘Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service’) have taken it to mean “when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent”.
Alienation can occur for a number of reasons – it may be accidental on the part of the alienating parent, or it may be deliberate. Whichever way, the impact of parental alienation can be damaging on the other parents’ long-term relationship with the child and the child’s ongoing social and emotional development.
There may of course be cases where it is appropriate for a child not to be seeing the other parent, for example, if there are risks to the child’s safety or allegations of domestic abuse which need to be properly investigated by the court or authorities to determine whether contact is safe.
Some cases do not fall into that category and it is important to understand what to do in the event that you feel you are being alienated from your child without justification.
The first step is to take legal advice from a child and family law specialist about your options.
An early gathering of evidence is also important. You may wish to check with any relevant authorities as to whether there are any investigations or whether there have been any allegations made against you by the other parent. A lot of the time, there are not and early confirmation of this by the police/ local authority may assist with any court application or in encouraging the other parent to engage.
If there are allegations made, then it may help with understanding what the process may entail if a court application needs to be made.
In cases of parental alienation, a prompt application to court would be advised if the other parent is not willing to engage in other ways of resolving things, for example through mediation or correspondence via solicitors. This is because if there is a time lag, it prolongs the time the child is not seeing the alienated parent which may make the overall impact more difficult to undo.
There is case law to support the position that the “court should consider all avenues for contact and wherever possible the court should promote contact with the discredited party”.
It is therefore important to be proactive and seek advice on your options at the first opportunity.
If you have any queries about parental alienation, or any other legal issue concerning your children, do not hesitate to contact Maguire Family Law on 01625 544 650 and we are more than happy to assist.