Parental Alienation occurs when one parent is psychologically manipulating a child. They ask the child to take sides or deliberately try to make a child think badly of the other parent. The motive may be to punish the other parent or obtain more control of the children. They may even want the other parent out of the picture.  There are varying degrees of parental alienation. It may range from saying subtly that the other parent is a bad parent, or even to making false allegations of abuse which would involve the police and potential arrest.

 

In children cases at court Cafcass officers (Family Court advisers/ specialist social workers) become involved. They are trained to spot such issues when they carry out safeguarding enquiries with police and local authorities at the outset of an application.  In some cases it is the police or social workers who will also assess the truth of the allegations.

 

When alienating behaviours feature, the Cafcass officer will use their professional judgement to assess whether it is safe and in the best interests of the child to have contact with the other parent. They will take into  account risk factors, visits to the child and parents and other reports, and the child’s resilience and vulnerabilities etc. Cafcass provide a report with recommendations for the Judge to consider. The judge then makes a final decision on the level of contact the child will have with either parent.  The court places real weight on the recommendations made by Cafcass when deciding what Orders to make. In extreme cases the courts are prepared to remove the child from the care of one parent to the other.

 

I have had much experience of parental alienation both in my work as a solicitor and as a mediator and have undergone training on the subject.  I have seen the damage caused by the problem of parental alienation itself. Sometimes even the allegation of parental alienation is false.  I have also seen how the Covid lockdowns exacerbate the problems when children have not been at school.  It is important to enquire of the child’s school if such children can attend as vulnerable children in such cases. This will mean they can have contact with other professionals who can offer support to them on a daily basis.

 

The issue of parental alienation has been written about for some time but it has only really more recently come to the fore.  It is important to recognise it early on. Professionals with the right experience can then tackle it. Conversely, it can be ruled out in cases where it has been wrongly suggested so that children do not suffer unnecessarily.