News & Insights

Parental Alienation

In the recent case of Re B (Change of Residence; Parental Alienation) [2017], a father who had no contact with his child for 14 months, was successful in his application for change of residence and relied on expert evidence that the mother was subjecting the child to psychological harm through parental alienation.

Parental alienation is found when a child expresses (freely and persistently) negative feelings towards a parent which is significantly disproportionate to the child’s experience with that parent.

In the case, the mother tried to give the Judge the impression that she was promoting contact however the Judge made a finding that in fact, it was the mother who was preventing contact. The mother told Cafcass that the father posed a risk to the child and that contact with the father unsettled the child and gave her nightmares. It appeared from observation that the mother had told the child that she would be taken away from the mother. It was clear to Cafcass that the mother was speaking negatively about the father.

The child told Cafcass that she did not enjoy her contact with father but this statement did not coincide with the child’s demeanour observed during contact. The child therefore underwent a psychological assessment. The expert said it was one of the saddest things he had seen. The child was trying to please both parents and the child’s positive experiences with the father were being eroded by the mother.

The Judge made an order for the child to live with the father straightaway and acknowledged that the change and upheaval would have a short term effect on the child. However the long term effect of maintaining a relationship with both parents and the child’s wider family outweighed this. The Judge found that the mother was unable to put her child’s needs first and more harm would be endured if the child was to remain living with her.

Parental alienation is a form of child abuse and causes irreversible damage.

If you wish to discuss this further, please contact Lynn Gooch on 020 8502 3991 for more information.