Parental alienation – a get out of jail free card for abusers?

A harrowing article recently published by the BBC explores the circumstances of children forced to make contact with fathers accused of abuse. The article makes for brutal reading and is enough to make any separated parent keen to stay well clear of the Family Courts! However we hope we can restore some faith in the Family Justice System by shedding some further light on the issues raised.

The BBC’s article looks at cases where one parent alleges abuse and the so called “abuser” responds with an allegation of parental alienation.  “Parental alienation” is that all too familiar phrase which seems to crop up in many private law children cases.

What does it mean?

There is no legal definition, which is rather unhelpful.  Effectively it means that one parent has or is alleged to have manipulated the child into adopting a distorted and inaccurate view of the other parent to the extent that the child may then want to have no or less contact with that parent.  Often, the child will have very positive views of one parent and very negative views of the other parent. There is usually no valid or rational reason for that child to not want to spend time with the other parent.  Frequently, these cases are the subject of early intervention by an expert psychologist to assess the child.

So, what of the BBC’s claim that abusers have been using parental alienation to deflect responsibility from themselves?

Helpfully we see little evidence of this in practice. Judges are aware that an allegation of parental alienation is easy to make and is made in far too many cases. The Judge will want to see evidence from experts before even considering whether the case is one of parental alienation.

The Judge should hear evidence from both parties and whilst this can be a traumatic experience, it allows each party to speak out, to put their side of the story.  It is vital that a parent who has suffered abuse and who is worried about their abusive ex-partner spending time with their child, speaks to a lawyer early on. Lawyers can advise as to what steps need to be taken from the start so as best to present a case in court.

At Geldards, our specialist Private Law Children Team have experience in dealing not only with cases involving parental alienation, but also cases where one party has been in an abusive relationship. We also work closely with Family Therapists who can provide emotional support for clients along this journey.  If you would like to find out more, our Family team can help please get in touch with the team below.

Link to BBC article Family courts: Mothers dying after ‘abusers’ claim access to children – BBC News

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