“The children do not want to see you”
What is parental alienation?
This is where one parent tries to and succeeds in distancing a child from the other parent with no justification. It can happen when parents separate and where the alienating parent is struggling to deal appropriately with their hostile feelings towards the other parent.
Sometimes, intentionally but often subconsciously, the alienating parent will go about spreading fear and antagonism in the child, to the point where positive beliefs about the other parent are replaced by negative ones which make the continuation or re-establishment of the parental relationship practically impossible.
As a solicitor of 20 years’ experience, I have witnessed parental alienation on a number of occasions. I have seen it from both sides, the profound pain of the alienated parent who sometimes ends up withdrawing their applications, when faced with a child insisting they ‘never’ want to see them. I have seen the other parent scrabbling for justifications as to why the child feels the way they do and then feeling satisfied when the other parent gives up.
What is the answer?
It is not easy to resolve such complex cases, but the answer is to identify this issue as early on as possible and deal with it. The court can be invited to make findings as to the alienating parent’s conduct and order a psychological assessment of that parent with recommendations as to what work/therapy needs to be undertaken to stop the harmful behaviour.
From experience, the courts can be slow to act and it can be many months before a report is obtained. It is therefore important, if possible, to maintain the child’s relationship with the absent parent during that time. The court may need to look at indirect forms of contact or supervised contact if the child remains resistant to seeing their parent.
In a very recent child contact case, the judge did actually move the child to live with her father, as it was felt that despite the fact this would mean a change of school and separation from her half siblings, only the father could secure his daughter’s long-term psychological need to have a relationship with both parents.
It is important to note that this order was not made until there had been many months of litigation and a very significant period when the little girl was not seeing her father at all.
Such changes of residence remain rare, but family judges would appear to be prepared to be more robust than ever in their attempts to ensure that children maintain an ongoing loving relationship with both parents.
If you want to discuss this issue or any other related family issue please do not hesitate to contact family lawyer Gemma Gillespie on 01892 515022.