Parental alienation: it’s serious and heartbreaking

Man holding child and talking on phone

When you’re in the throws of divorce and separation, it’s all too easy to talk down the absent parent in front of your children. However, be careful what you say. Parents who go further and seek to turn their children against their former partner could be denied contact. Director Rita Gupta explains more.

In law, the act of turning your children against their other parent is known as ‘parental alienation’. It’s a highly damaging form of emotional manipulation that often ends or permanently damages the relationship between the absent parent and their children. Research suggests that parental alienation happens in up to 15% of divorce cases, and judges are now taking the issue very seriously.


Cafcass take a stand

A new process is being trialled by Cafcass (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) to help parents change their behaviour before the problem escalates. Intense therapy will be offered to change their mindset, but if the alienating paren t doesn’t change their ways, they:

  • Can change residence which is something the court can consider now in any event
  • May have contact restricted or refused for a period of months
  • As a last resort, will be banned from any contact with their child or children

All Cafcass frontline caseworkers will be given new guidelines in Spring 2018, which will include exact details on when children can be removed from the alienating parent and homed with the so-called ‘target parent’.

Why these measures, and why now?

It may seem a strong set of measures, but it may act as a crosscheck for parents, to ensure they maintain and promote the absent parent’s relationship. Research has shown that children benefit from longstanding secure relationships with both parents.

However, such measures do have a major stumbling block in that it will be difficult to gather evidence to prove alienation is taking place. It is unlikely children would be happy to talk about it, even if they are aware it is taking place, and the resident parent may not even be totally aware of what they are doing. Equally, given the current demands on Cafcass, the process could be difficult to both enforce and monitor.


Parental alienation across the world

Parental alienation is internationally recognised as a form of parental psychological abuse, and conflicts with the core principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN convention on the rights of the child. Indeed, in Mexico and Brazil, is a criminal offence to alienate any child from its parent.

Don’t alienate, co-operate

At LGFL Ltd, we believe the best way to negate alienation is via a collaborative law approach to any divorce proceedings. A collaborative approach takes some of the ‘heat’ out of the divorce process, especially if it can be resolved without court proceedings. If a child arrangement plan can be reached without the intervention of a court or a judge, it is more likely to be balanced and fair, and suit both parties better.


How LGFL can help with parental alienation

If you are concerned that your partner may be turning your children against you, or if you are concerned you may be doing it unintentionally, call us for advise. We offer a free 30-minute consultation where we can discuss your position, and offer advice on your next course of action.