Parental Alienation - A Rigorous Approach by the CourtsThe Children and Family Court Advisory Service (Cafcass) have been running a pilot scheme in an attempt to stop Parental Alienation becoming more of a problem in divorce cases.
Parental alienation happens when parents separate and one parent attempts to prevent an ongoing relationship between the child ( or children) and the other parent. Deliberate and malicious attempts are made to turn a child against their father or mother. It occurs in 11-15 % of cases involving children.
It is generally accepted, and further there is a presumption that when parents part a child should continue to have a strong relationship with both parents unless there are serious reasons to the contrary. The courts are currently seeking to raise awareness of the serious harm parental alienation can have upon a child. It has been recognised as a form of child abuse; to the extent that in countries such as Brazil and Mexico, parental alienation is a criminal act.
The Children and Family Court Advisory Service (Cafcass) have been running a pilot scheme to attempt to stop this practice. The alienating parent will be expected to attend a specialist parenting program to help them to understand the impact of their actions upon their child. If this is not successful expert psychologists will have input in appropriate cases. A parent who has been found to have caused parental alienation and fails to improve their parenting approach may risk having their child removed from their care, restricted or refused contact and permanently banned from them in very serious cases.
UK judges are recognising the seriousness of this phenomenon, one wrote about a case of parental manipulation, describing it as ‘exceptionally harmful’ to the child. In this case she was forced to transfer residence to re-establish the relationship between a child and the alienating parent.
The scheme has been welcomed as a much needed approach to a serious problem. It is expected that the new scheme will be implemented in the spring. After which, all Cafcass case workers will be given a new set of guidelines called the ‘high conflict pathway’. This will help social workers understand when they should remove the child from the ‘alienating’ parent and place them with the ‘target’ parent.The programme will be introduced on a trial basis, with most judges confident of its success. The recognised priority is to preserve the relationship between the parent and the child. However, if the programme is not successful, mental health experts will be brought in and parents who continue to perpetuate will potentially lose contact with their child. This is because parental alienation can damage the child even during adult life.
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