Published: 21 July 2016
A family breakdown is a testing time for both parents and children, but it can become particularly difficult when one parent begins to influence a child and alienate them against the other parent.
Because 'Parental Alienation' is becoming increasingly common in family breakdowns, Cafcass (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) are offering their support to help deal with these issues through a government funded pilot programme called ‘Parents in Dispute’. The programme aims to help parents that are separating to understand the impact of their behaviour on their children and to find ways of maintaining a more positive environment for their children during what is undoubtedly a difficult time.
Parental alienation is the term given to describe a situation in which one parent has a strong influence over their child(ren), shaping their perceptions of and opinions about the other parent – perhaps even convincing them that the other parent no longer loves them. This influence may result from several elements such as saying extremely negative and slanderous things about the other parent to the child and even seriously limiting the amount of communication the child may have with the other parent.
Unfortunately this issue is common in divorces involving children and affects some 11% - 15% of cases. The occurrence of 'Parental Alienation' is being recognised more and more by judges in Britain and in one case in particular, the judge referenced a previous case where the child in question and the alienated parent were reunited in order to re-establish their relationship, with the judge saying in her summary, ‘I regard parental manipulation of children, of which I distressingly see an enormous amount, as exceptionally harmful.’
Although parental alienation is becoming more common within families, there are only a limited number of legal professionals based in the UK who specifically deal with these types of cases. There is a level of concern that judges and social workers without the required training, or with little experience in dealing with these situations, will be unable to identify if a parent is being alienated or know what action to take.
While there are some legal professionals trained to deal with situations such as these, they can prove very costly – as certain actions have to be taken in order to ascertain that a parent is being alienated. This includes a range of psychological assessments or a change of residence to bring the child and the alienated parent back together. Due to Legal Aid cuts, this has created a divide whereby only wealthier parents can take full advantage of these types of investigations, with an estimated cost of up to £50,000.
Specialists agree that with the right support and assistance, children can recover relationships very quickly, this may even include separating the child from the alienating parent. By placing the child in a positive family environment they can begin to rebuild loving relationships in a short space of time.
If you are thinking about divorce and separation and you are concerned about the impact it will have on your children then K J Smith Solicitors are here to help. Our team of family law specialists will advise on the best course of action to take and will always strive to deliver the most positive outcome possible for you and your family.
For more information or to arrange a free 45 minute consultation, please contact K J Smith Solicitors today on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 020 7070 0330 (London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor), 01256 584000 (Basingstoke) or 01483 370100 (Guildford).