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When allegations of parental alienation arise in family law proceedings, it can be quite distressing for parents. The fear of losing child residence arrangement or contact as a result of these accusations is frequently seen.

Parental alienation is a complex issue with substantial implications for child arrangements in family law proceedings. It is natural for parents to be concerned about the potential impact on their relationship with their child when claims of parental alienation arise. We will explore the legal considerations, evidentiary requirements, and potential outcomes in such cases.

Understanding Parental Alienation

Parental alienation is not a syndrome.  It is a description of a pattern of behaviours that describes the process by which one parent, usually the resident parent, either intentionally or unintentionally erodes their child’s relationship with the other parent, causing the child to reject or resist contact with that parent.  The key issue is whether the child has unexplainable aversion to spending time with the other parent and/or is growing hostile towards them.

This can have a variety of repercussions for the child and the family as a whole, including emotional distress, a loss of family support, and a need for legal intervention.

Legal Framework

In England and Wales, The Children Act 1989 establishes the paramountcy principle, which mandates that the child’s welfare is of paramount consideration in any decision regarding their upbringing. This means that the Court will consider whether a child’s views about a parental is a genuine reflection of what is in their best interests or whether they have been subjected to parental alienation.

Allegations of parental alienation can significantly impact child arrangement decisions, but they are not the sole determining factor.

Evidentiary Requirements

To establish parental alienation, a party must present compelling evidence to substantiate their claims. Mere accusations without evidence are unlikely to have significant legal repercussions. Family courts rely on a thorough examination of the facts and evidence provided by both parties involved. This may involve witness testimonies, expert reports, psychological assessments, and other relevant evidence.

Expert Involvement

The Court may decide to appoint an independent expert, such as a child psychologist or psychiatrist, to assess the child’s well-being and the presence or absence of alienating behaviours. These experts play a crucial role in providing objective insights and recommendations to the court, helping inform their decision-making process.

The Court’s Approach

The Court’s aim is to safeguard the child’s best interests whilst promoting a healthy and meaningful relationship with both parents, whenever possible.

In the notable cases Re A (A Child) (Parental Alienation) [2019] EWFC B56 and Re H (Parental Alienation) [2019] EWFC 2723, the court emphasized the need for interventions to address parental alienation promptly. The court highlighted the detrimental impact of alienation on the child’s emotional well-being and ordered therapeutic support to facilitate a positive relationship with the targeted parent.

In Re H-B (Contact) [2015] EWCA Civ 389, the Court of Appeal recognized the serious nature of parental alienation and emphasized the importance of maintaining a child’s relationship with both parents. Munby P states that:

“Where two parents share parental responsibility, it will be the duty of one parent to ensure that the rights of the other parent are respected, and vice versa, for the benefit of the child”

In Re B (A Child) [2008] UKHL 35, the House of Lords emphasized the importance of maintaining a child’s relationship with both parents unless there is a genuine risk of harm. Parental alienation was considered a serious issue, and the court expressed the need to address and rectify such behaviours to protect the child’s well-being.

Accordingly, in the recent case of Local Authority v S & Ors [2023] EWFC 85, the court reinstated the high threshold for removing the child care from a parent. In this case, HJ Pates expresses that the court must be satisfied that the child is suffering and is likely to suffer significant emotional harm attributable to the unreasonable parenting of the resident parent before making a decision that transfers residence from one parent to another.

It is crucial to note that while parental alienation is a recognized concept, the courts approach parental alienation cases on their individual merits, considering the evidence and the child’s best interests. Therefore, the outcome will depend on the specific facts and circumstances presented in your case.

Importance of Legal Advice

Navigating parental alienation allegations within the family law system is a complex process. It is crucial for parents facing these situations to seek the guidance of experienced family solicitors who specialize in children matters. At Rayden Solicitors, we can provide tailored legal advice, support the collection of relevant evidence, and advocate for our client’s position during court proceedings.

If you require legal advice regarding matters of parental disputes, please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our specialist solicitors.

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