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In family disputes it is sometimes the case that the parent with whom the child lives refuses all contact with the other, non-resident parent. The non-resident parent may then consider raising the allegation of parental alienation against the resident parent.

What is parental alienation?

Whilst there is no binding definition of parental alienation, it is useful to refer to the Cafcass website which lists a number of alienating behaviours, encompassing “an ongoing pattern of negative attitudes and communication about the other parent or carer that have the potential or intention to undermine or even destroy the child’s relationship with their other parent or carer.”  More information can be found at:

https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/parent-carer-or-family-member/applications-child-arrangements-order/how-your-family-court-adviser-makes-their-assessment-your-childs-welfare-and-best-interests/alienating-behaviours

 

Instructing an expert

Once allegations of parental alienations are brought before the court, the court may consider it necessary to list a fact-finding hearing and permit an expert under FPR 25 to assist the court in making a determination. The expert, for instance a psychologist, will issue a report with their assessment of the situation and recommendations to the court. However, it is crucial to bear in mind that expert assessment is not the end-game and, whilst potentially helpful, must not be relied on as a determining factor. Instead, the finding of fact lies squarely with the court, after the judge has considered all available evidence.

If the court has found that the allegations of alienating behaviour are true, it may order further reports, on a party’s application, to consider an impact of the alienation on the child, as well as a Section 7 or 37 report for further recommendations.

 

Can the child join the proceedings?

Aside from instructing an expert, it is worth considering whether to make a joinder application to include the child in the proceedings, and appoint the child’s guardian under FPR 16.4.

For practical purposes, it is advisable that an application under FPR 16.4 is made sooner rather than later, as this will cause a delay of a few months. As in any other matter, the decision whether to make the child a party to the process is for the court to make, always having consideration of the child’s welfare.

 

What orders to expect?

It is important for the non-resident parent to manage their expectations as to any child arrangement orders once the court has found that alienating behaviour by the other parent has occurred. The court will not aim to “penalise” the resident parent but again make such “live-with“ and “contact-with” orders that are in the child’s best interests, in all aspects. For instance, the court may decide that the child shall continue living with the resident parent, despite their alienating behaviour, to allow the child to have continued stability by remaining in the same school and neighbourhood. 

Please contact Rose & Rose HPLP if you have questions in relation to child arrangements and separated parenting.

 

Talk To Our Specialists

Our family law solicitors can provide guidance and support in navigating family and child legal matters and the financial complexities that can arise. It is always important and highly advisable to seek professional legal advice to ensure the best course of action for your circumstance. Talk to our specialist Family Law team via the links below.

 

Written by Aneta Kapron

 

 

This blog post is not intended to be taken as advice or acted upon. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our team of solicitors.

Aneta Kapron

Aneta Kapron

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