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The meaning of Parental Alienation

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The Guardian newspaper has recently reported on the success of a new government funded initiative by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) and the Tavistock Centre for Couple Counselling to support parents affected by what is known as parental alienation.

Parental Alienation is generally seen as the manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent and/or other family members. This is found most often in hostile divorce cases with the alienating parent wishing to place great emphasis on the (often very young) child’s purported views not to see the other parent.

Despite Parental Alienation Syndrome having first being coined by psychiatrists in the 1980s, the English Courts and Cafcass have been reluctant to recognise that it is a ‘syndrome’.

However, the USA and Canada do acknowledge its existence, and Cafcass appear to now be following this lead.  It appears to be a significant sea change for them to be involved in this pilot.  Their assistant director, Sarah Parsons, has said that “Parental alienation is responsible for around 80% of the most intransigent cases that come before the family courts…” The Courts also appear to be getting the message with recent judgements from the High Court explicitly using the phrase ‘parental alienation’.

Cafcass state that the chief aim of the project is to provide support to separating parents involved in high conflict disputes in the family courts. Although the project is very small, with the pilot initially offering intervention to just 65 parents, they report some impressive results,     with 87% of participants saying that the assessment process helped them.  It remains to be seen whether the pilot will be rolled out any further.

Parental Alienation is a very complex matter and therefore it is important to seek advice at an early stage. The Family team at Chattertons Solicitors can provide you with expert guidance. Contact details for our family lawyers can be accessed via our family law page or alternatively please call our client care team on 0330 102 55 55 who will be pleased to assist you with your enquiry.

You can read the complete article from the Guardian newspaper by click this link.

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