I recently read an interesting article referencing a letter from a mother who made a heartfelt apology to her children. The mother provided her account of the anguish and pain she felt upon the breakdown of her relationship with her ex-partner, and more significantly the direct consequential impact that this had on the children. The mother had confessed her underlying hatred for her ex which led to her purposely seeking to destroy him, both in character as a father and a husband. This was all done with one aim in mind: to sever the father’s relationship with the children as a form of punishment to him.
It is unfortunate to say that this type of scenario is becoming more frequent than ever. The hostility a parent can hold against the other can often be destructive and may directly cause one parent to alienate the other from having an unfettered loving relationship with their children, which prior to the breakdown would have been described as normal.
Whilst there is no set definition of Parental Alienation, CAFCASS describe it as ‘when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent’. The general consensus amongst practitioners is the emphasis on ‘justified’. Many reading this definition will relate this to potential real life situations, which could include the following scenarios provided by CAFCASS:
- Your relationship with your children was normal and healthy but upon the breakdown of your relationship, your children suddenly change their views and refuse to spend time with you. This could be influenced by the other parent causing the children to potentially fear you which may spur their emotional response.
- Your ex-partner is often belittling or bad mouthing you to the children, coaxing them on what to say to you making you feel worthless.
The increase in allegations of Parental Alienation has led to CAFCASS being commissioned to provide a review in this subject area in 2018. Whilst the findings of the review are voluminous, the review does not conclude what evidence is required to prove parental alienation, although it does provide some guidance as to examples including those I use above.
Shortly after this paper was published, Lord Justice MacFarlane touched on this topic in a keynote speech at the Families Need Fathers Conference. Having considered LJ MacFarlane’s speech, I note that parental alienation, depending on its severity, could be treated procedurally as allegations of domestic abuse are already investigated. This infers that the requirement of a fact finding hearing could help to determine the allegation of Parental alienation. This effectively means that this type of allegation should hold the same level of standing as domestic abuse as stipulated within PD12J. LJ MacFarlane readily accepted that “in some cases a parent can, either deliberately or inadvertently, turn the mind of their child against the other parent so that the child holds a wholly negative view cannot be justified by reason of any past behaviour or any aspect of the parent – child relationship”.
Parents who are on the receiving end of such hostile behaviour from the other parent could therefore ask the court to investigate with the aid of CAFCASS using the guidelines as set out in PD12J. Practitioners are all too familiar with the delay that a parent can suffer in not seeing their child when parental alienation is an issue.
At Rayden Solicitors, we proactively help to re-establish a relationship with an alienated parent as swiftly as possible. Given that it is Parental Alienation Awareness Day on 25 April, it is an opportunity to consider the loved ones around you. If you or someone you know is experiencing some difficulties in this area, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible to minimise any further damage to the parent-child relationship.