Frances Hipperson, B P Collins’ family partner, advises on how CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) is aiming to prevent parental alienation within families.
Parental alienation is a common occurrence in the UK. According to CAFCASS, it exists in a considerable number of the 125,000 cases it deals with every year. Parental alienation is when one parent actively attempts to distance their child from the other parent, by, for example, badmouthing or belittling the other or persuading the child that the other parent doesn’t love them, to, at its most serious, seeking to persuade the child to permanently exclude the other parent from their life. Anthony Douglas, Chief Executive of CAFCASS has commented that parental alienation is a type of adult behavior which causes adverse childhood experiences and has suggested it is a form of child abuse.
CAFCASS is attempting to combat this serious issue through a pilot scheme that will initially give parents the opportunity to change their behaviour through counselling and therapy. Ultimately, in the most serious of cases, if the parental alienation continues, the child or children may no longer be allowed to live with the alienating parent or indeed have contact with them.
It must, of course, be recognised that some parents may have genuine reasons for not wanting their child to have contact with the other parent. Parents with legitimate concerns are not who the scheme is aimed at. This scheme is intended to help families where there are cases involving high conflict, including (but not limited to) parental alienation. It is hoped that when the pilot scheme comes to an end, a full programme will commence in the spring of this year.
At B P Collins, we have sadly seen the impact that the alienation of one parent can have on a child and the fact in some families the alienation begins even prior to the parents’ separation. It can be extremely damaging not only at the time it starts to occur but as the child continues to into adulthood. In some cases one parent may not see their child for months or even years because the child believes everything the parent who they are living with is saying; or may not want to offend or be ‘disloyal’ to them, and on this basis chooses not to see their other parent.
We believe that this is a positive move from CAFCASS, but of course it remains to be seen how the scheme will work. We are, however, in support of what it is trying to achieve and of the recognition that where there is genuine parental alienation, this can be damaging and action needs to be taken. We also support its recommendation of counsellor intervention, which B P Collins often suggests, as the practical advice imparted can really help both parents and the child address this issue before the child feels permanently estranged from one parent.
This is a highly complex issue and if a parent considers that their relationship with their child is deteriorating or their child starts to want to spend an increasingly reduced amount of time with them, then advice should be sought from a specialist family lawyer. The earlier this issue is detected and addressed the better, and hence a new scheme directed at early intervention must be welcomed.
If you are affected by this matter, please get in touch with Fran who is part of B P Collins’ team of specialist family solicitors and will be able to provide both legal advice and practical support based on their experience of dealing with such cases. They are also recognised as one of the best family teams in the region according to legal directory Chambers UK, so you’ll be in expert hands.
Fran can be emailed on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01753 889995.