11/2017 - Mark Tattersall's blog - Chivers Walsh Family Law

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Is parental alienation “a thing”? Cafcass now seems to think so

Published by Mark Tattersall in Children · 20/11/2017 13:51:26

“Parental Alienation Syndrome” is a term that was coined in the early 1980s in the USA to describe a mental disorder in which a parent with care of a child persistently denigrates the other parent without justification. Many UK psychologists do not recognise it as a mental disorder, although most family lawyers will be familiar with parental alienation as a phenomenon; either the “residential parent” is unable to protect the child from exposure to that parent’s negative feelings about the other parent or they deliberately set out to alienate the child, for tactical reasons in court proceedings. According to a recent article in The Guardian, Cafcass (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service), which provides reports to courts in contested cases about children, has said that it “had recently realised parental alienation occurred in significant numbers of the 125,000 cases it dealt with each year”. If the report is accurate, it seems surprising that Cafcass has only recently had this realisation. Cafcass apparently intends to introduce what is described as “a new approach [which] will initially give parents the chance to change their behaviour with the help of intense therapy. Alienating parents who do not respond will not be allowed to have their children live with them”. It remains to be seen how intense the “therapy” will be. The article refers to what it describes as a “12-week intense programme called positive parenting”. It is not clear how different this will be from the Separated Parents Information Programme which currently exists for those cases where courts feel that the parents do not necessarily appreciate the damage they cause their children if they cannot work together in those children’s best interests. Mark Tattersall, partner at Chivers Walsh Family Law.

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