CAFCASS guidance published on parental alienation
There is no question that the breakdown of a family relationship will impact on children of the family, regardless of their age. It is therefore important to ensure that any impact is managed appropriately by both parents. There are a number of resources available to parents to assist them in managing the transition for children going from one home to two homes. Parents can choose to attend separated parent support workshops which are run up and down the country, attend counselling or they can use online resources such as those found on the Resolution website.
However, family lawyers often see difficulties arise where one parent is willing to work collaboratively, but the other parent is either not willing to engage in constructive conversations about the child arrangements or that parent goes even further and is attempting to sever or damage the relationship between the child and the other parent.
There could, of course, be valid reasons why one parent is unwilling to work with the other parent such a historical domestic violence, concerns of neglectful parenting or risk of harm. However what if one parent appears to be distancing themselves and the child from the other parent for no justifiable reason. The concern here is that one parent’s hostility towards the other parent may affect the child to the point the child then becomes hostile and refuses to see the other parent. Initially it may be the child refuses to attend contact to please one parent, usually the parent with whom they spend the most time, but as the hostility intensifies, the child can take on the parent’s views about the other parent to a point that the relationship risks becoming irrevocably damaged. This behaviour is known as parental alienation. And instances of it appear to be increasing.
CAFCASS, the children and family court advisory and support service, have released guidance on parental alienation and what role they can play if it is believed parental alienation may be a risk. It is very important that this issue is managed early on so the sooner advice can be sought the better.
The guidance sets out what parental alienation is in greater detail than is explained here and also provides details of who to turn to for assistance if you believe your child is at risk.