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Alienation - a form of child abuse!

View profile for Yolande Millar
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The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) believes deliberate parental alienation accounts for the majority of the most entrenched family disputes, possibly as much as 80 percent.

Cafcass works with children and their families not only within public law proceedings but also in private law applications and undertakes investigations to assess the issues raised by one parent against the other.

Cafcass’ Chief Executive, Mr Douglas, when speaking to the Daily Telegraph compared the behaviour of alienation to child neglect or abuse. Mr Douglas has openly condemned the phenomenon of ‘parental alienation’ which occurs when one separated or divorcing parent denigrates the other and encourages the children to think of the other parent as frightening or threatening. Mr Douglas believes this could have a significant long term impact on the child’s wellbeing and is quoted as saying “I think the way you treat your child after a relationship has broken up is just as powerful a public health issue as smoking or drinking”.

The absence of law specifically outlawing alienating complicates matters and whilst there are penalties available such a sending a parent to prison or giving a community sentence, the court rarely takes these steps because ultimately this punishment impacts on the child.

Cafcass has established a new House Style guide for their practitioners in the preparation of their reports and emphasises that the child should ‘leap off the page’, as when this happens the report can then be a powerful tool for change, with a child sometimes being seen and heard properly for the first time.  

It does however appear that the issue is now being recognised and some family Court Judges have begun to respond to the deliberate parental alienation by changing the residence of the child from the badly behaved parent.

If you find that you are experiencing difficulties in making arrangements to spend time with your children and require advice, please get in touch with one of our specialist advisers at Birkett Long.