Understanding the effects of parental alienation, during a divorce, is crucial. Some people feel that the need to place blame when divorcing in England and Wales (there have been calls for a “no fault divorce”) has only served to add to the difficult nature of divorce and the associated problems that go hand in hand with ‘finger pointing’.
Indeed, many argue that this need to blame only results in further resentment towards the other party, which can culminate in all sorts of additional issues which may have been able to have been avoided otherwise.
There is no legal definition of parental alienation but Cafcass (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) talk about various “alienating behaviours”, such as one parent “badmouthing or belittling” the other parent or giving the impression that the other parent doesn’t love or like the child.
There is little doubt that this kind of behaviour can have potentially serious consequences for the emotional wellbeing of the child/children involved.
Late last year, Cafcass announced that they were trialling what was described as a “groundbreaking” approach to deal with parental alienation, using what they named the High Conflict Practice Pathway, which addresses various features in ‘high-conflict’ cases, including parental alienation.
According to the Independent, the pathway will detail at what point a child should be taken away from the parent who is doing the alienating and be placed with the other parent.
Cafcass says that it developed the pathway to “provide clearer framework for the robust assessment of the impact of such behaviours on children and to help practitioners see more closely what is happening in each case”.
According to Cafcass, at the end of the review period, a final version will be rolled out nationally and will be available on their website from “summer 2018”.
Charity Families Need Fathers (FNF) described parental alienation as the “single biggest issue among those who come to FNF seeking help”.
Using children in this way is obviously a very serious issue which could potentially cause long-term damage to both the child and their relationship with the other parent.
It is worth remembering that children can face a real emotional struggle when their parents seperate, even when a divorce is more amicable.
As we touched on above, Cafcass’ ‘high conflict pathway’ may mean that in some circumstances, a parent who is alienating their child against the other parent could ultimately lose custody of the child.
There is no doubt that parental alienation must be taken seriously. We await the final version of Cafcass’ High Conflict Practice Pathway with interest.
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