Parental alienation: clarity at last

family life

Professionals came together to recognise the impact of parental alienation on children at a special conference organised by the Central London branch of FNF (Families Need Fathers) this Saturday.

Senior figures in the sector attended, including Cafcass CEO Anthony Douglas, His Honour Judge Stephen Wildblood, barrister Francesca Wiley QC and the NSPCC’s Head of Safeguarding, Chris Cloke. They all recognised the harm caused to children and parents by this persistent form of emotional and psychological abuse.

Speaking candidly, Cafcass CEO Anthony Douglas recognised that parental alienation ‘..usually has a part to play in every high conflict case’. He acknowledged that Cafcass are playing ‘catch up’ on the issue – Douglas compared the organisation’s current response to the way it treated domestic violence a decade ago. But none of the hundred or so strong audience of professionals and alienated parents could have been in any doubt that Mr Douglas is committed to ensuring his organisation plays a strong and active role in preventing this abuse in future. For one thing, tackling parental alienation will be a central plank in the new High Conflict Pathway (operational protocol) that Cafcass is developing. Douglas spoke movingly of his own personal experiences of alienation as a child when his adoptive mother turned him against the man he knew as his father. He went on to speak of a later experience when he met a father reunited with his now adult son after years of alienation. As a child this young man had made very serious allegations against his father who was then convicted of abuse in the criminal courts. Now years later, having established a strong bond with his father, this young man freely admitted that the abuse simply didn’t happen.

Answering a question from the audience about the worryingly low numbers of his staff who had viewed the online training material on parental alienation, Mr Douglas recognised that there was still much to be done to bring all of his staff onside with the new way of working. Whilst strongly defending the commitment and professionalism of Cafcass practitioners, he accepted that It will take us some years to achieve recognition among all staff’. He did, however, confirm that training in the High Conflict Pathway will be mandatory.

His Honour Judge Stephen Wildblood was equally outspoken in his own speech at the conference. Starting with a clear statement that both parents should be involved in the life of their children unless serious issues have been identified, he questioned the basic assumptions and ways of working of the family courts, asking:

“What will people say of us in 35 years’ time when they look back on the way we handled family disputes?

The Judge emphasized consistency of approach and early therapeutic intervention as ways to resolve conflict. He moved on to quote case law on parental alienation, before giving his own definition of the condition, one that was remarkably similar to those used by other professionals. Showing a very clear understanding of the subject Judge Wildblood used the example of the child who refuses to go to school. It doesn’t help to simply ask them what they want. ‘The problem with wishes and feelings report is that this reinforces the problem in alienation cases’.

He also gave the audience the troubling image of the alienated child who looks in the mirror and sees the image of their own father within them, going on to talk of the psychological impact of that realisation on the child’s mental health and wellbeing. Seeing parental alienation as a generational issue, Judge Wildblood warned of the dangers of the alienated child growing up to become an alienator themselves – visiting the curse onto the next generation.

The importance of ensuring direct and substantial contact with both parents was a key feature of Judge Wildblood’s speech. Warning that the Courts turning to ‘indirect contact’ as a halfway house in intractable cases only further distances the alienated parent from the child, he asked the question:

“How do you write to a child that you don’t see?!”

This point that had a very clear resonance with many of the audience.

Showing the empathy and understanding that has rightly earned him his reputation as a beacon of hope in the Family Division, the Judge responded to a question from one alienated parent who had endured 37 hearings in the Family Court. “The pain you feel is quite obvious and I feel very sorry about that.” Robust case management is a key element that Wildblood wants to see in all cases but particularly those where alienation is an issue. These cases cannot be allowed to drag on.

Child psychologist Dr Hamish Cameron reflected on the many presentations during the day by experts, including solicitor Joanna Abrahams and parental alienation expert Dr Sue Whitcombe, who emphasized the importance of early intervention in such cases to prevent or minimise the harm to children. There must be a presumption of normality where both parents are involved, unless the legal threshold of harm is met. After all, in almost every case, it isn’t the child seeking a separation but one or both of the parents.

The event was organised by FNF Central London branch committee members John Baker and Vincent McGovern to mark the start of a more public campaigning and lobbying initiative designed to move the agenda forward and support a growing recognition of the damage caused by parental alienation to the lives of children and parents. There was a very clear feeling that an increasing number of professionals are now both aware of the phenomenon and putting into place measures to protect children from this insidious form of psychological abuse.

Image by Chris Lofqvist via Flickr

Paul Apreda

Paul Apreda is a Trustee of the English charity Families Need Fathers in addition to being National Manager of the Welsh charity. He is also Secretary of the cross party Group in the Welsh Assembly on fathers and fatherhood.

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54 comments

Robert Cheyne - October 16, 2017 at 3:24pm

A good summary of an excellent event. I hope the professionals, particularly Cafcass, take the comments and amend their processes so their Officers improve the detection of Parental Alienation and put take steps much earlier to stop the damage being done to children.

Dr. Manhattan. - October 16, 2017 at 3:56pm

This is a good development but i hope they are not just concentrating on parents causing this problem. Local authorities via their Social workers are doing just the same by cutting parents off from contact and very likely telling lies to the child as to why the parents no longer come to see them.
this is a serious issue that must not be left in the dark. children are suffering just as much from this issue no doubt about it.

katherine mccourt - October 17, 2017 at 10:09pm

agree with you, children alienated by social workers (and indeed kinship care) is a serious issue to which most social workers pay scant regard to the emotional/mental health & happiness of the children who no doubt feel the ‘pain’ of separation from a primary parent i.e raised by Mum for 5 years is suddenly only seeing her twice a week supervised for no reason other than to alienate parent & ‘wean’ the child of the Mother. Social workers care little for this insidious abuse its a disgrace.

L - October 18, 2017 at 12:05am

Im glad that you mentioned this problem as i sit here breaking my heart thinking about how my 3 children feel as the Social Services told lies about us to take our children away and because i questioned why my son had managed to access sexual things whilst in their care, they cancelled contact so we dont find out anything else out and made more lies up. They have split the children up and put our eldest in dexiamphetamine without us knowing and all of the Local Authority and the psychologist and foster carers are all ignoring the fact that he has told them all at seperate times that he will kill himself if he cant come home and he wont vehave untkl hes allowed home. Im really scared for my childrens welfare. The Local Authority have emotionally abused my whole family. Parent and child alienation has to stop. Children need both parents. Ive never been charged for abuse or neglect and have never hurt my children. Its hard as i know what our poor babies are going through. Xx

James Franklin - October 16, 2017 at 3:59pm

Talk is cheap. The only acceptable solution is a change in the law to make parental alienation a criminal offence as an amendment to s76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015. The state must recognise how damaging this behaviour is. Technically s76 SCA 2015 can be used in such cases, but public institutions, such as The Police, Crown Prosecution Service, CAFCASS and Social Services refuse to accept this. I know this personally from a 9 month battle to see my own children, where I was dismissed repeadedly by public institutions because in thier mind it is not abuse.

The reality is that hundreds, possibly thousands, of fathers who are wrongly denied access to their children take their own lives each year in the UK. If women took their own lives at this rate women’s groups would be vocal, but men are painted as the abusers and women the victims…even the latest NSPCC advert reinforces this misguided and inaccurate assumption.

Only when there is a change in the law, old assumptions dismissed and the courts take strong action against any parent, male or female, who uses their children as a weapon or convinces them to lie about the NRP will things start to change.

The system may not be intentionally biased against men, but, sadly, in practice it is due to entrenched thinking regardless of what the law and common decency requires.

Dr. Manhattan. - October 16, 2017 at 5:43pm

Very well said James.
Social workers are also causing parental alienation when social workers cut kids off from contact then lie to them as to why the parents no longer come to see them. its an evil system of lies and deception that needs Urgent attention.

Paul Apreda - October 16, 2017 at 7:42pm

Thanks James and Dr.Manhattan. In the summing up at the end of the day I did refer to the criminalisation of parental alienation. I did so not to see hundreds of mothers (and several fathers) languishing in prison but simply to provide a deterrant to the alienator to think very carefully about the consequences of their actions. Some might say that damaging your own child in such a terrible way would be deterrant enough but sadly we know that not to be the case.
The reality is however that we believe that PA is already a criminal offence. Take a look at s66 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 (dealing with child abuse) rather than s76 (that deals with abuse to those 16 and over). s76 DOES need changing but principally to correct the ‘anomaly’ that coercive and controlling behaviour is no longer a criminal offence when the parties are not living together or in an intimate relationship.

Ryan - October 16, 2017 at 10:40pm

Yes I’ve been trying to argue section 66 for some time, so far to no avail with the local authorities despite clear signs in my son of depression and lack of schooling when contact is stopped and the pressure is applied

Thank you again for all you do.

Stuart Large - October 17, 2017 at 9:20am

Hello Paul
I think we’ve been in touch before, but i’m sure you receive huge amounts of messages. I haven’t read the full post yet but having been through the process with Cafcass and a ‘W&F report’ there is a great deal of work to be done.
I am 10 months into a PA situation, I have a mental health condition so I’m trying to work on gaining a better balance in my life, that said, if there’s anyway I can get involved in a voluntary or support capacity I would be keen to know.
It would seem a positive way to use my energy at this stage of the process.

Feel free to let me know and thanks for all the hard work you are doing.
Stuart

Separated-dad - October 17, 2017 at 10:43am

Hi Paul –

I’m just being accused of “contriolling and coercive” behaviour and have a voluntary interview with the police who are investigating this allegation.

I haven’t actually seen my ex for 3 years or so, and unsure as to how I can be accused of such a thing.

But we don’t actually live together and split 8 years ago.

Ive been in court 35 times so far – 32 of which were her trying to prevent contact, and 3 of mine were contact had been missed and trying to get re-established.

But if we’re not living together – this new crime that came in in 29th December 2015 – if we’re not living together then I cant even be questioned under it surely as it’s not a criminal offence as we’re not living together ?

spinner - October 17, 2017 at 3:37pm

Don’t attend it and if you are ever forced to do a police interview don’t say anything unless you are with a lawyer that you know and trust. I’ve spoken off the record as such with a barrister who told me that this is the best policy and the lawyer you have with you should be one your trust as he has known lawyers to get their clients to say just about enough in an interview to ensure there is a case to fight and so more work for them.

Separated-dad - October 18, 2017 at 8:33pm

Why would I not attend it if there is a reason to put right what they have been told ?

I expect the interview to be recorded anyway – or are you saying that the police will purposefully lie ?

I think their evidence is minimal as I can;t think of anything that ive done that would end up as being coercive or controlling at all.

James Franklin - October 17, 2017 at 1:50pm

Paul, you are correct, typo on my part, it should have been s66 and not s76. I had s76 in my head because the Police constantly misinterpret the wording to mean they do nothing unless the accused is a male.

M - October 16, 2017 at 4:38pm

We have had a very bad experience with parental alienation . It not only affects the child but also the father and his family. Our case went on for over 14 months and was all made up of lies , there was no evidence to back up the mothers lies against my son and he could prove what she was saying was lies yet the judge and cafcass didn’t want to know . We withdrew our application on the instructions of a barrister as the case was all one sided and costing thousands of pounds. 3 months after withdrawing we found out the mother of the child’s family member worked on our case . Her family members name was all over our paperwork. I find this very disappointing that a child has been kept from a loving father because of a favour done for a court worker family member .There was no mention of my sons 11year old daughter who’s had an excellent upbringing excellent school reports and a continued relationship with her dad from day 1 . She has also missed out on her little brother because her dad doesn’t see him . I do hope cafcass get the training they need because I haven’t had a good experience with them , I found they side with the mother and not the father or in our case it could of just been that the cafcass officer and her co worker knew the mother of the child’s family and had done for year . FNF keep up the good work yous are doing we have had the pleasure of going to FNF meetings and found this very helpful

Paul Apreda - October 16, 2017 at 7:14pm

Thanks M for your encouragement of our efforts at FNF. I’m very sorry to hear that you have faced the pain of parental alienation in your life. There will be many parents and grandparents who have direct experience of PA who are understandably sceptical or suspicious of the words of Anthony Douglas on the subject – specifically how his organisation will deal with the issues in future. However, we must engage with them wherever we can to help Douglas to bring about change among his staff.

Kevin - October 16, 2017 at 5:12pm

The court system and Judges need to take PA seriously. When I got divorced in 2007 , my ex wife was clearly using PA towards me and when this was suggested to the Judge by my barrister , the judge described me as an ‘amateur psychologist’ and ‘fantasist’ . The end result is that I haven’t seen my children in over ten years. I agree with the comments above that the family court system (including CAFCASS) is heavily biased against men and this needs to change.

George kimani - October 16, 2017 at 5:47pm

Actions speak louder than words and time is everything. This should be implemented immediately. Cases dragging for weeks and months and even years should not be acceptable while one parent enjoys alienating the children and the other is nearing a cliff edge. There is a hell of a lot of improvement needed in family courts which evidently favors mothers. Allegations are and should always be treated as such.

Paul Apreda - October 16, 2017 at 7:46pm

Hi George – actions do speak louder than words and we intend to work with Cafcass on their High Conflict pathway to help them achieve the outcomes that Anthony Douglas clearly expressed. False allegations are a huge problem in the Family Court BUT we have no data on this. What we do know however is that allegations of harm are raised in around 48% of cases (not the 62% that Women’s Aid and Cafcass data suggested). The figures were produced for us by colleagues in the MoJ and HMCTS to whom we are most grateful.

E - October 16, 2017 at 5:50pm

We have experienced quite severe parental alienation but the perpetrator is the father. While this article describes the mother doing parental alienation and everyone seems to paint the court system as biased against men, in fact, from what I have seen so far, more fathers have done parental alienation but they are more covert and use money (if they are wealthy) to further their agendas.

Paul Apreda - October 16, 2017 at 7:24pm

Thanks E – you make a very important point. Though our name implies we only support fathers the reality is that we support any parent or grandparent who is being excluded from the lives of the children they care about. We do believe that there is systemic bias against men in the Family Justice system BUT it is important to recognise that mothers who are not the main carers for their children are just as likely to be the ‘targeted parent’. PA is more likely to be perpetrated against men simply because most parents who are the main carer are women – and adopting that role is more likely to enable alienation. I tried to ensure that the article was as gender neutral as possible but genuinely the examples given by the main speakers were in relation to fathers being alienated. In contrast I wish that Women’s Aid would adopt a more consensual position on the subject of domestic violence – which they continue to portray as ‘a cause and consequence of gender inequality’.

Marie - October 16, 2017 at 9:22pm

I notice your comments about women’s aid I have listened to stories of young women who have visited a local women’s aid in Teeside called My Sisters Place and I have been told that the young women have been disgusted that they have been told to say that there ex partner has use violence against them . I find this most disturbing as this is a reason a lot of fathers are being denied access to there child.

John - October 16, 2017 at 6:36pm

Have to at, I felt like James Franklin (Comment 3) originally. Problem is what to do, as happened to me, when a judge asked me after several months of intransigence by my ex, if I wished her to be jailed! I genuinely believe the judge would have jailed her on the spot. Problem is that she had been telling my daughter that her dad was “trying to send her to jail”. To follow through on having her jailed would have given substance to that. I declined so she walked. On a brighten note, my daughter contacted me after 16 years absence and we are now building a wonderful relationship. She is now 26 with two kids! Its never over till its over!

R - October 16, 2017 at 7:12pm

It is the most corrupt outdated bias system I have ever had the mis fortune of coming up against. My children have not seen me for 10 months all down to one social workers hunch that because the children aged 9&10 both stated clearly they wished to live with me that I must have brainwashed them. This one under qualified pompous statement has created stress, heart break and my daughter to have a nervous breakdown and my son to be extremely confused and angry it has wrecked their lives. Not once has my ex wife’s heroin addiction from the past or very disturbed childhood come into question.Parental Alienation is sick and even worse when you realise it basically come down to ‘jobs for the boys’ (usually women in actual fact) that seem to have a massive bias against Fathers. Women make false DV allegations receive free legal aid and have their vindictive way with the father but worse than that hurt the children forever.

Dr. Manhattan - October 17, 2017 at 5:24pm

i agree,
Social workers are doing extreme amounts of damage not just to parents but also the children when contact is severed to serve an agenda.
lies and deception are just another day in the office to these psycho robots yet i’ll bet they act like everything is fine and rosy in the garden when they go home to their families.

Marie - October 18, 2017 at 9:22am

I totally agree with you R what ever Cafcass says as well as the mother the judge always agrees without evidence. I think Cafcass should be disbanded and a new body of independents brought in . All you hear throughout the country is the damage that they have caused to children and families.

d - October 16, 2017 at 7:27pm

I too have been alienated from by children by their father. It’s not just men who get alienated.

Paul Apreda - October 16, 2017 at 7:56pm

Hi d – yes of course you are right – men AND women can be the ‘targeted parent’. In my experience we see a disproportionately larger number of women as ‘targeted parent’ than the number you’d expect based on the demographics of the gender split of Primary Carers (90/10) Professor Nick Bala – writing about his own caseload suggested the figure was 83/17. I suspect that the prevalence of the ‘alienated mum’ in the online community may have something to do with the fact that men often just give up and go away – but that’s only a hypothesis on my part. I’m sorry that you have faced these problems and I hope you’ll support our charity as we move forward to ensure that Cafcass and the judiciary deal with the problem effectively

Phil - October 16, 2017 at 8:29pm

Interesting article. As a child I was alienated from my father. I’d listened to everything my mother said and believed it. My father at the time (early seventies) was badly advised to walk away. Of course I felt rejected and I never really knew the truth until my mother’s death some thirty years later when I was clearing out her paperwork.
As an adult my son’s mother tried to alienate him against me. I never gave up and was never going to walk out of his life. He would tell me some of the things his mother said about me and I use to say to my son you know it’s wrong to say bad things about people. I left it at that, I never said anything bad about his mother. He was 6/7 years old then. Now three years later he lives with me.
Coming from an alienated background doesn’t always make you more likely to alienate a child from a parent. It does however effect you mentally that will scar you for the rest of your life.
Parental alienation will always exist, it’s how we learn to deal with it that’s important.

Paul Apreda - October 19, 2017 at 11:15am

Thanks for your contribution Phil, and particularly sharing your experience of being alienated from your father and then the experience of alienation being perpetrated against your child. It is hugely important that we capture these experiences of alienation and use them to inform practice within Cafcass and also within the wider Court system. What we need to do now is work with the Court system at all levels to ensure that PA becomes as much a part of the Court thinking as Domestic Violence has become

Phil - October 19, 2017 at 12:38pm

Paul, PA needs to be recognised as domestic violence, it is emotional abuse of a child, just as one parent preventing a child from seeing another parent is emotional abuse.
As well as CAFCASS and Courts recognising this, which is probably the most prolific form of child abuse in this country, it also needs to be recognised by children’s charities such as the NSPCC.

S - October 16, 2017 at 9:42pm

Family Law is the saddest and most unfair system on this land. You go to court to get justice only to be told the judge doesn’t have enough time to look at all the facts or hear the evidence. This happened to my brother six times so far. He was the primary carer, and gave up his career to care for his children who he adores. Sadly his narcissist wife managed to successfully get a non molestation order at an ex parte hearing without a single shred of evidence. As a result his whole world fell apart, he got kicked out of his house and his children were taken away from him. How is this possible without seeing any evidence? It’s now over a year later and he’s still waiting for his evidence to be seen by the judge, in the meantime his partner is trying to alienate the kids from him and the rest of our family. It’s just the most painful process I have ever seen, I find it utterly unbelievable how any system can justify these kind of delays which destroys the very same people they are supposed to protect. If you mention parental alienation no one knows what to do about it. Make it a criminal offence to stop the offenders who succeed in destroying so many lives. Also they judges need to make mediation mandatory where they can see the case has been drawn out. We need change urgently to restore our faith back in the system.

Marie - October 18, 2017 at 9:34am

S you are in a similar position as my son . There was no evidence against him and he had proof to back him yet the judge said it was inarelivent. My sons case was the most corrupt I could of ever witnessed . False allegations are evil and when Cafcass fall for there lies it’s a shame . My sons ex told the courts she had no social life yet was out ever week, we told Cafcass about this we could prove her lying instead of raising this she would contact the ex and warn her we had evidence our Cafcass officer was just as bad as the ex and her false allegations, it’s so sad to kept out of a child’s life through lies too many people suffer .

Dr. Manhattan - October 18, 2017 at 11:39am

“it’s so sad to be kept out of a child’s life through lies, too many people suffer”.
Absolutely!.
it should be classed as a human rights violation to do this to good people who have even been shown by the police to be law abiding citizens and are not a danger to anyone inc their children.
how they have gotten away with this for so long is an absolute disgrace and many professionals knew how wrong it is yet turned a blind eye and did nothing because it pays well to keep it zipped and not rock the boat.

S - October 19, 2017 at 7:40am

Marie, it just breaks my heart to see how easy it is for a parent to make false allegations and because of that it ruins so many lives. My brother is still fighting for his children and waiting for the day his evidence is finally read. What is appalling is he goes to court with hope that finally someone will listen only to be told the judge does not have enough time to hear submissions. Of course it would be great if the parents were able to reach a compromise but his wife has never wanted to and continues to be hostile despite seeing the kids suffer. Why can’t the fact finding be the very first thing they do at Court and reduce the number of directions and wasted hearings? Instead he has waited over a year and will most likely be told the children are settled now, an absolute joke because that is far from the truth. Also do the judges not realise how much it has cost a parent just to be at court, to take time off work, pay a barrister, the emotional anxiety and then for the umpteenth be told sorry not today without a single ounce of remorse. He walks away yet again with all faith lost in the system. The delays are torturing families, it needs to change asap.

Sandra - October 16, 2017 at 10:36pm

Hi Paul
We are from Scotland and have had fantastic support from john Alastair and Ian from FNF in Scotland. My partners children were moved to England last year and his ex has continually caused havoc for the children and us alienation ,malicious allegations etc. She has ignored every court order that has been implemented .The case was raised in the English courts last week as she wanted to vary the scottish order. I agreed to give up jurisdiction in the scottish courts to try and get contsct reestablished with my kids.The judge ordered a cafcass report to be completed with in 12 week’s. Would i be able to ask that the cafcass officer has been trained in the high conflict pathway ? As I feel that this is essential.
Thanks in advance and again a massive thanks to FNF Scotland.
Kind Regards
Stuart

Phil - October 17, 2017 at 10:08am

Hi Sandra,

I had similar issues with my ex, moving, breaking court orders etc. I asked the magistrates how they were going to deal with my ex’s contempt for the court as she had clearly demonstrated a complete lack of respect for them and had no intentions of ever following any orders. I then offered what realistically was the only way my son could have a relationship with both parents. Which was he moved back to where he use to live and resided with me. I did have some luck, mother didn’t come across to well, CAFCASS did wishes and feelings and my son expressed his wishes. He is now doing very well at school, there are effects from the PA and I’m currently trying to get him support in that area.
So keep positive, you never know what the future brings.

Vincent McGovern - October 16, 2017 at 11:57pm

As expected an excellent write up by Paul Apreda, who also summarised beautifully the critical observations from the excellent professionals who had addressed the workshop during the day. And what a pleasure to hear HHJ Wildblood so effectively take apart ‘Wishes and Feelings,’ and also the laughable concept of ‘indirect contact’ with a 3 year old. The Judge was entirely accurate when he asked the rhetorical question,’ what will we think of the current family courts in 35 years time.’ When John Baker contacted these professionals none had to be asked twice to attend. Their awareness and willingness to speak out about the horror of parental alienation and the untold damage it does to children is to my mind a clarion call for greater action and determination among professionals within the system to be aware of and adequately protect vulnerable children from parental alienation by either parent.

JamesB - October 17, 2017 at 11:46am

Quite often, when the children are faced with staying home or the non resident parents place they opt to stay home. End result of feminism is unhappy parents and unhappy children. A return to 1950s style trying to make families stay and work together is needed. Plus, move to the Scottish divorce laws, the English laws are a sick joke.

James Franklin - October 17, 2017 at 2:07pm

What is needed is a new section to the Serious Crime Act 2015.

“S**: Parental Alienation, or the denial of a child’s right to see an estranged Parent.
(1) Any responsible adult who has day to day custody of a child, whether that be by agreement or by Court Order, shall be committing an offence of Parental Alienation where they wilfully, deliberately or maliciously prevent a child from indirect AND direct contact with a non-resident parent unless there is a Court Order in place to prevent such contact on the grounds of child safeguarding

(2) Any responsible adult who has day to day custody of a child shall be committing an offence of Parental Alienation where they use psychological tactics to alienate a non-resident parent by using coercive or other psychological means to cause the child to think negatively about the non resident Parent.

(3) Any responsible adult who has day to day custody of a child shall be committing an offence of Parental Alienation where they remove the child more than 25 miles from their current family home without the written agreement of the non resident Parent or where agreement cannot be met, by a Court Order.

(4) Any responsible adult who has day to day custody of a child shall be committing an offence of Parental Alienation where they remove a child from the Jurisdiction of the United Kingdom for a period exceeding 10 days without the agreement of the Non-resident parent. ”

Whilst the wording may be off, this is what is required, and we are behind the times on this. The UK lauds itself on Child protection, but in reality it is way behind the times in many areas.

Lee Burbidge - October 17, 2017 at 3:38pm

I have just won my PA case. It took 4 years and over 50,000 pounds. There was no support for me. I had to fight for each step. I had to pay many thousands of pounds on legal fees and traveling to a court 4 hours from my home.
Core Assets were ineffective and entrenched my daughter further. They did not recognise PA, were not trained in PA. They tried to discourage me by stating that dads ‘ just give up’ when I asked what happens if your work doesn’t work out. Core Assets made me travel 250 miles to sign a document and refused me to do it by post or electronic means despite knowing my case.
NSPCC told me they do not recognise PA.
CAFCASS preferred me to use the term hostile to contact rather than PA.

I had to take all the financial risks.

Experts in the field of PA at court influencing level with the right skills in recognising, managing and reuniting targeted parents with their children I can count on my fingers in the UK.

I asked for a Guardian

I asked for a psychiatrist report

I asked for a specific skill set with regards an ISW

It was all me fighting tooth and nail.

I have turned a corner and I will see my daughter on my birthday. She wants to see me now. She said she was sorry she left me…. it’s not her fault!!!!!!

The psychiatrist report identified PA and stated ‘significant harm to the child’

No one listened to me as a father. They knew better. But I was at ground zero. You know when things don’t look right.
My case did not have to take so long and did not have to cost me so much, all of it was avoidable with robust intervention.

Many fathers ‘given up’ – I think about those families a lot. And feel guilt that I had the means to push on and they did not.
This shameful child abuse must stop now!!! Government intervention. Is needed. A massive awareness campaign and training is needed across the board!

Phil - October 17, 2017 at 5:27pm

It’s a child’s legal right to have a relationship with both parents. If one parent prevents the child from seeing the other parent then should be seen as emotional abuse of the child.
Once that is recognised progress can be made.

nongenderbias9 - October 18, 2017 at 8:51am

Hi, parental alienation is a mental health issue, it is gender neutral. The reason men suffer is mainly because the laws in this country are constructed around the protection of women and girls. In the current political climate where women have had success with their special interest groups; the law has no choice but to preferentially support the views of women whatever they may be. I distinctly remember Judge Munby, in reply to a frustrated father who complained about the Court’s attitude……He said, “my hands are tied”

Conversely women suffer because men manage to “establish” how inadequate or ill their former partner is.

The real losers are the children who suffer the psychological damage of splitting; broken attachments.

In the current political climate, where women’s rights seem to outweigh everybody else’s interests, promoting personal choice above all else, families will suffer.

Personally I would like to see the “family” promoted as the way forward. Individual rights inevitably lead to conflict and social disaster.

Sarah Phillimore - October 18, 2017 at 12:15pm

And equally nongenderbias9, basing your response on this rather bizarre assertion that ‘laws are constructed around the protection of women’ will get us not very much further forward. That is simply untrue – in my view – and you will need to provide some evidence for that assertion if you want me to take it seriously.

There are many women who complain – and some with good reason – that their worries about violent fathers are not listened to or the court cannot deal with them.

This pushing of the ‘family’ at all costs does sound quite sinister to me. Families can be a place of comfort and support – when they are good. When they are bad however they can cause significant harm and misery. I would far rather a legal system that looked to protect the rights and freedoms of each person before them as an individual, rather than reducing them to simply a member of rather a hazy social construct.

I shall assume by ‘family’ you mean the ‘traditional model’ of mother, father and 2.4 children, with the father as the authority figure.
If I am wrong about that, i am intrigued to know what you do envisage when you think of a ‘family’.

Phil - October 18, 2017 at 2:00pm

nongenderbias9 and Sarah, you both have points that can be discussed, but the one thing I agree with is:
” a legal system that looked to protect the rights and freedoms of each person”

And one ‘person’ is the child, who has a legal right to a relationship with both parents. One parent stopping that child from seeing the other parent is emotional abuse.

JamesB - October 18, 2017 at 2:58pm

Ok Sarah, if we agree with your comment (which I do not, apart from the bit about ‘There are many women who complain’ – which we and bored looking professionals had to sit and read and listen for hours of fabricated complaints in court and solicitors letters and made up affadavits etc.), perhaps you could, in addition to trying to break down the traditional idea of a family, advise what should replace it with.

Scrape away the inflammatory language, its an honest question please.

Paul Apreda - October 18, 2017 at 3:25pm

Hi Sarah and others. I feel and appreciate your anger at statements that are made in all genuine belief and experience that the system is biased against men. I’m also clear that many women – notably those within Women’s Aid who have brought forward the 19 Child Homicides report – are passionately convinced of the injustice of a system that allows fathers to have a relationship with their own children. The truth of course lies somewhere in between BUT also in many cases within each of these positions. Many men experience appalling bias. Some children are killed by their fathers. As one would expect of a leading family law barrister you construct some excellent arguments BUT I cannot see why you top things off with an assertion that what is meant is a ‘typical model’ of a family where there is a father as ‘the authority figure’. If fathers were the ‘authority figure’ you mention then they wouldnt represent more than 70% of applicants to the Family Court making applications ot be able to have a relationship with their own children. I would suggest that the evidence shows that in the majority of ‘families’ intact or not the ‘authority figure’ is the mother.

David Eggins - October 18, 2017 at 2:16pm

An excellent day with some very deep truths spoken by some very experienced and influential people summarised in the most accurate and appropriate of ways by Paul Apreda and fantastically well organised by Vincent and the other members of FNF. Congratulations all round.
The rights and needs of the children need to remain everyone’s No 1, 2, and 3 focus. And in addition to parental alienation there are other issues: female abusers being sent on The Freedom Programme, a programme for victims which is more about brain washing (against men) than helping women come to terms with and process the emotional issues which they face and have faced, i.e. those of coping with grief, fear and anger, trust and attachment and disgust.
Also “risk assessments” within the DASH; a paper by Louise Almond et al at http://clok.uclan.ac.uk/18571/ indicates that only 4 (of 21) of the individual risk factors currently used are associated with an increased risk of DA recidivism, criminal history, problems with alcohol, separated, frightened. Etc Etc.
It would sound as if the initial police risk assessment process could be very significantly reduced to the relevant risk factors rather than being conflated by the other 17!

JamesB - October 18, 2017 at 3:03pm

Denying PAS, doing that is political correctness gone mad.

JamesB - October 18, 2017 at 3:05pm

Denying PAS exists, doing that is political correctness gone mad. It may not exist in every case it is claimed but it is rife and children can be caught in the middle of a war and that sort of collateral damage is out of order as is denying that it is an issue, that’s what is political correctness gone mad.

Helen Alford - October 18, 2017 at 3:20pm

I just wanted to say, as the female partner of an alienated Dad, that the issue with Cafcass staff not wanting to read about PA doesn’t surprise me. Cafcass officers tend to be women and in my experience they tend to have ingrained ideas about Mum being the natural nurturer with her children’s best interests at heart and Dad being a potential abuser – his desperation to parent his child being slightly suspect in some way.
I think Cafcass need to employ more male officers and it should go without saying that training on PA must be compulsory. Its time to break gender stereotypes around parenting.

JamesB - October 18, 2017 at 4:13pm

If you subsidise something you make it happen more often, basic economics, in this case single parents. I’m not condoning domestic violence, but it seems to me too many people of both genders are crying wolf, the cause of which is rooted in the entitlement stuff Sarah came out with above. Better if the genders spend their energy trying to get on rather than fight, so yes, perhaps try towards making a family work with a man and woman in the same house together rather than meeting in court or in the street to throw insults at each other as suggested by Sarah. Its political correctness gone mad.

Angela - October 19, 2017 at 3:32am

I really wish I’d known about this event, I would love to have been there. I find what is written above so encouraging at a time when as an aunt to children who are being alienated from a father and wider family that loves them, that there is no hope.

Everytime I think things are improving and the courts and Cafcass are getting it something happens that makes me think “that’s impossible, how can they not see the truth, why is it taking so long, can’t they see the damage that is being done to the children, why is my brother being punished, criticised and made to jump through hoops when the alienating parent is getting away with abuse.” It’s 2017, you can’t believe it could happen. I feel helpless and voiceless as I have no responsibility or part to play in law and have only been able to support my brother behind the scenes.

I’ve spent a lot of time today drafting a letter to the Ministry of Justice getting ready to take on the world for the sake of my nephews who may one day be father’s themselves. Change must happen both in legislation and in the processes adopted by courts and Cafcass. It’s most likely already too late for my family and every day that passes fills me with dread that the damage to the children will not be undone. Father’s in this situation, and yes, some mother’s too have a right to be angry because this situation is not acceptable, it’s not right.

Seeing what has been said and the people involved gives me hope. I need to find out how to get involved. If there is a way of getting the full output from the session and a contact for how to support this work please let me know. Thank you all for the work you have done so far.

Jacqui - November 22, 2017 at 11:48pm

The extended family was mentioned during the conference and as paternal grandparents we are hopeful that the loving relationship and trust which we shared with our grandchildren will be restored. If not for us but for so many other families affected in this way.

Phil - November 23, 2017 at 12:52pm

The existence of parental alienation needs to be accepted. The emotional effects it has on children and their development should be thoroughly explained to adults and even covered during sex education at school (along with divorce). Only then can a cultural change occur to where such behaviour is seen as unacceptable. Most perpetrators think they are doing nothing wrong – this has to change.
Once it was acceptable to drink and drive, drive without a seat beat, smoke around children, but through education this is now deemed socially unacceptable.

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