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Parental Alienation - separating parents could be denied contact with their children 23/01/2018

Parental Alienation is where one parent turns their child against the other parent, the ultimate aim of which is to persuade the child to permanently exclude that parent from their life. Parental alienation is estimated to be present in 11-15% of divorces involving children, a figure thought to be increasing. Parental alienation occurs mostly when parents are separating or divorcing and increasingly so when involved in the legal process.

Judges are increasingly recognising parental alienation as manipulation of children and regard it as exceptionally harmful. One case saw transferred residence to re-establish a relationship between the child and the alienated parent.

Under a "groundbreaking" process being trialled by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS), separating parents could be denied contact with their children if they try to turn them against their former partner/spouse.

The new approach by CAFCASS in respect of parental alienation is said to give parents a chance to change their behaviour with the help of intense therapy and alienating parents that do not respond to this will not be allowed to have their children live with them. In addition, contact between this parent and the child could be restricted or refused for a number of months. In extreme cases, the alienating parent will be permanently banned from any contact with their child.

CAFCASS are concerned about the level of parental alienation and recognise that this occurs on a spectrum from mild to extreme all of which, as reported by CAFCASS, can be extremely damaging to a child or children involved.

Until now cases of parental alienation in this country have relied upon CAFCASS recognising incidents on a case by case basis. Many alienated parents say their experiences of alienation have been missed by the social worker and family court system, leading to permanent estrangement from their child.

From spring 2018, CAFCASS caseworkers will be given a new set of guidelines called the high conflict pathway. These guidelines will itemise the steps social workers must take when dealing with cases of suspected alienation. The pathway will spell out exactly when children should be removed from the alienating parent and placed with the "target parent". Alongside these guidelines, CAFCASS has developed a 12 week intense programme called positive parenting, designed to help the abusive parent put themselves in their child's position and give them skills to break the pattern of behaviour. If this does not work then the proposal is to bring psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health experts in. If the alienating parent continues, the visits with the child will be limited to supervised visits and in extreme cases care proceedings by the local authority and parents will lose contact with their child.

For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.

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