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“Mum is implacably hostile”

How often have you heard this phrase?

If you’re a lawyer or some other professional involved in intractable contact matters, probably quite a lot. If you’re a parent (probably a dad) you may have first hand experience of the phenomena.

Although either parent, or indeed both parents can be implacably hostile, the term is usually levied at mothers by fathers. This, in the main, is my own experience. Whether this is because the mother tends to be the one with whom the children live after the split or there is some other reason altogether, I’m not sure.

Even if a break-up has been particularly difficult and protracted, many parents manage to make amicable arrangements for the children to have contact with the non-resident parent and judicial intervention is not required. However if parents cannot agree on suitable contact arrangements, then the courts will often be required to intervene and make a contact order.

What is “implacable hostility”?

The phrase “implacable hostility” made its judicial debut almost 30 years ago and has been in use ever since (see Re B (A Minor) (Access) [1984] FLR 648). It isn’t suitable to describe a tricky mum or awkward dad. Instead, it is a specific term reserved for the most obdurate of parents. These are the parents who will go to any lengths to prevent or sabotage their children from having a meaningful relationship – or any relationship at all – with the non-resident parent. If I could use only two words to describe implacable hostility, I would say that it’s insidious and sustained.

Implacable hostility is likely to generate conditions that prohibit a relationship from prospering. The desire of the hostile parent to sabotage the relationship outweighs any acceptance that what they are doing is not in the best interests of the child, and they may genuinely believe this to be the case. It is especially difficult if the resident parent is certain that their appraisal of what is in the child’s best interests is more accurate than that of the courts.

It is necessary to differentiate between opposing contact with and without a valid reason. If a parent objects to contact because of genuine fears of violence or there has been a history of domestic violence, then this is not implacable hostility (see RE: H (Contact: Domestic Violence) [1998] 2 FLR 42).

Why does it happen?

There can be any number of reasons. From control to revenge, to a genuine belief that it is in the best interests of the child. Every case is different. Sometimes it becomes more about one parent wanting to have the other parent’s bad behaviour exposed in court so they can have their own feelings or beliefs verified by a judge.

How does implacable hostility manifest itself?

There are many different examples of this conduct. Here are just a few:

  • Refusing communication between themselves and the non-resident parent, creating either a very difficult environment for contact or preventing any contact at all;
  • Making patronising or unpleasant remarks about the non-resident parent to the child which can undermine their relationship;
  • Deploying whatever means necessary so as to ensure that contact is made very difficult or frustrated altogether;
  • Gifts fail to arrive, telephone messages are not passed on;
  • If children are very young, a parent can fail to facilitate telephone conversations, read letters, pass on school reports, news or photographs;
  • Moving to a different part of the country;
  • Encouraging a child to make a decision in direct conflict with an order of the court;
  • Suggesting an attractive alternative to seeing the other parent;
  • At the last minute “something happens”, which means that contact cannot take place; and
  • False allegations of violence, neglect or even sexual abuse of the child (see the leading case of V v V [2004] EWHC 1215).

What is important to the courts?

As Marilyn and her colleagues have frequently stated, the courts will seek to do what is in the best interest of the children. For this reason, there is a presumption in favour of contact as it is considered a child’s right, unless of course contact would be contrary to the child’s welfare. Indeed, over the last 20 years judges have been quite determined that objections to contact will fail when the child’s welfare requires that contact.

When considering making an order, and deciding what will be in the best interests of a child, courts undertake a balancing exercise based upon the Welfare Checklist contained in Section 1 of the Children’s Act 1989.

Dealing with breached orders

Making an order is one thing, but making it stick can be quite another if one parent is determined for the children not to be part of the other parent’s life. Sometimes an order is complied with to begin with and then contact starts to deteriorate. Other times it never gets off the ground.

Managing intractable disputes and “policing” those who refuse to comply with contact orders is an exceptionally difficult undertaking for the courts and as yet, nobody has come up with a magic solution to the problem.

But the courts do have powers to transfer residence from the resident parent to the non-resident parent. In the case of  V v V [2004] EWHC 1215 the residence of two children was transferred from mother to father due to the judge, the late Mrs Justice Bracewell, finding that the mother had made false allegations of sexual, physical and emotional abuse by the father and his family. She believed that such allegations and the parental alienation caused to the children would continue if they remained with the mother. In contrast, the judge found the father to be very reasonable, loving, capable and financially able to have residence of the children.

However, the courts will also sometimes impose a custodial sentence on a parent defying a contact order (see Re W (a child) [2010] EWCA Cov 1280). But a judge will always have to consider the impact of such an action on a child. Imagine the further resentment which could be built between the child and applicant parent if the child perceives they have sent their other parent to prison.

You may think that imprisonment is the ultimate sanction that a court can impose. It ought to be, but in cases like Re W the courts have attempted a custodial sentence before transferring residence to someone else. In this case it was transferred from the mother to the paternal grandmother in the interim, until a review could take place.

And in V v V the judge stated that the last resort would be to “give up”. This is where no contact is ordered due to the fact that the children are so damaged by what the offending parent has told them. They have come to believe it themselves and think that they do not want contact with the other parent. In these circumstances ordering contact or even a change of residence would cause further significant harm. This is the hardest decision to make for a judge or a parent who decides that pursuing their case any further would upset the child. And the case of Re S (A child – Transfer of residence) makes sobering reading in this respect.

In the case of Re L (Contact: Domestic Violence) [2000] 2 FLR 334, the Court of Appeal heard four cases where they were tasked with dealing with proven violence or threats of violence, where fears of the resident parent were indeed reasonable and where significant issues relating to harm to the children arose. The Court decided that there should be no presumption either way in favour of contact, but that there should be a balancing exercise based upon the welfare checklist as well as previous contact between the parties (Section 1.3, Children’s Act 1989). Where violence is proven, the court will look at the willingness and ability of an individual to address their behaviour. The welfare of the child is of course paramount. The Court of Appeal dismissed all four appeals. It was held that the family courts need to possess a greater appreciation as to the impact of domestic violence on children.

In my opinion, if a court considers that a child is at risk of suffering significant harm, it is more likely that it will ask the local authority to intervene and make an order under Section 37 of the Children Act 1989. The Local Authority can then be asked to investigate so as to ascertain the child’s welfare.

No happy ending

The consequences can be tragic and some parents give up altogether. It is incredibly frustrating because non-resident parents can feel so powerless.
While the court can grant an order, the reality is that they can be very difficult to enforce.

It’s hard to know the real impact on children as some are too young to communicate clearly. Those who are of an age to “know what’s going on” can be reluctant to speak candidly about their wishes and feelings because they don’t want to be disloyal or take sides.

The more orders are flouted, the more frustration builds with what seems to be an unjust and increasingly hopeless situation. Sometimes the process generates more questions than answers. Why isn’t the court doing anything? Why is this person allowed to ignore what a judge says he or she has to do?

While judges have options to impose sanctions, including imprisonment and transferring residence, the latter is a controversial and unusual tactic, which would undoubtedly have a significant impact upon a child. This can, in-turn, lead to a perception of a “toothless” system. Judges have been accused of being “pro-mum” or “anti-dad”, and the sentiments are further compounded by the so-called secrecy of the family courts.

Final thoughts

To an outsider it’s all too easy to think, why can’t two grown-ups sit themselves down and sort something out? But the travesty is, for one reason or another, they just can’t. The outcome is months or even years of legal wrangling, leading to a decision handed down by a judge that, in many cases, a sensible pair could have arrived at themselves, without the large invoice. And above all, the children’s welfare is often sadly overlooked at a time when they most need a positive environment and robust infrastructure around them.

In some less extreme cases a Shared Residence Order is often considered. As Lord Justice Wall states in Re P (Children Shared Residence Order) [2006] 1 FLR 3009:

“Such an order emphasises the fact that both parents are equal in the eyes of the law and that they have equal duties and responsibilities as parents.  The order can have the additional advantage of conveying the Courts message that neither parent is in control and that the Court expects parents to cooperate with each other for the benefit of their children.”

So on paper, it would seem that the court has numerous options within its arsenal to deal with implacable hostility and its ramifications. The reality, in my opinion, is quite the reverse. Orders can be made, but there is a gamut of means some people can and will utilise to circumnavigate them.

What does the future hold in store for families stuck in this situation? The Family Justice Review recently concluded that additional enforcement measures in cases where there is a breach of an order is not the answer. In its response the government decided that it did not agree:

“Whilst the courts already have a number of enforcement powers (a fine or imprisonment for contempt of court; the imposition of unpaid work; and the award of compensation for financial loss suffered by the other parent) there are practical and evidential hurdles which in practice mean that these sanctions are little used. The Government therefore intends to explore the feasibility of providing the courts with wider enforcement powers so that in appropriate cases these can be used to address wilful disobedience in respect the court’s order. Parents should also be made aware at the outset of proceedings about the potential consequences of disobeying any order made by the court and the government believes that this could help prevent enforcement from becoming the central issue.”

Qualified solicitor DT is a regular reader and commenter on the Marilyn Stowe Blog.

The post features additional content from Stowe Family Law solicitor Jennifer Hollyer.

Jennifer has experience in most areas of family law, in particular with cases involving children disputes (including international children disputes) and/or domestic violence.

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  1. Observer says:

    It is good to see this important topic being addressed here. I just offer two corrections.
    1. DT writes that parents either go to court, or they split amicably. Let’s not forget all those dads who just give up because they don’t have the emotional strength or time or money to put up with years of litigation and abuse. Chances are they have seen a friend put through this hell, and they get it into their head that it is just not worth it. Later, when they realize how wrong they were, they are accused of abandoning their families, of inconsistency, thereby doubling the crime that has been done to them.
    2. DT implies that implacable hostility is something that comes from within a parent. This is not the case. Implacable hostility is engineered into the system, by which I mean that one parent is implacably hostile because they know they can behave like that and get away with it, and get funded by taxpayers (via legal aid) to boot. Implacably hostility in other words is a role that one takes on, not an innate propensity.
    3. DT suggests that enforcement does not work. This is true. The only thing that will work is a complete demolition of the power imbalance in family law by putting into place a 50/50 presumption of shared care, merely as a starting point, so that both parents know where they stand or could stand when the marriage falls apart. So long as one party perceives that they hold all the cards, implacable hostility will continue to plague the courts, and more importantly, the lives of children.

    • Broadley, David says:

      If the courts as a matter of course took severe action on a few cases and it was highly publicised this whole problem would go away.
      Is anyone seriously saying that a mother would breach a court order if the result was certain prison sentence! The consequences of which would be far reaching, the father getting residence, probable loss of job, loss of home etc.
      Do the courts shy from imprisoning mothers in any other areas? No, so save all good fathers a lot of money, and hundreds of hours of court time and do the right thing, lock up a few implacably hostile mothers with full publicity, excluding names of course and watch the drop in summonses for breach.

  2. x says:

    Just as well it can be the non-resident parent that has hostile attitude: call in with last minute changes, delay returning the kids home after visitation, makes false accusations, makes untrue and unpleasant comments on the other parent to the children, promises the kids a puppy dog and endless trips to Disneyland if they pressure the parent for more visitation or ask the social worker to move to the other parent’s home, refuse to return the children’s clothing or personal items after visitation, will not assist the children to do homework during visitation so that the other parent needs to make up for it…
    Not to even mention the financial pressure that so many non-resident parents cause by withholding maintenance payments. Hostile attitude of the non-resident parent may be a form of revenge, a way to try to force change on the custody arrangements for example.
    The 50/50 system suggested by Observer will be no solution if the other parent really fails to be responsible. Also that would tie both parents up to continue to live at the same school area, while in real life there are also other considerations, such as work requirements, changes brought on by new relationship etc. Children need a home-base, and 50/50 system does not suit all. Also that would require more cooperation between the parents than arrangements for weekend visitation, which just will not work if the relationship has turned hostile or if either parent is not responsible to follow the agreed arrangements. Cooperation and good attitude cannot be forced on the parents.

    • Joanna Saady says:

      I do not agree with this. I split up from my ex 13 years ago and our children have lived 50/50. The system works really well, and from not getting on at all we as parents we pulled together and have come to respect each other for our co parenting skills. If a parent cares about parenting properly they will stay in one place to ensure they are around in their childrens lives, even take a lower paid job or whatever to ensure this is their priority. I did and it has resulted in two beautiful teenagers who are confident, happy boys. The home base argument, used forever as an excuse to push one parent out is just rubbish. It’s not the home base that matters, it’s knowing they are loved, secure and supported properly by both parents together.

  3. JamesB says:

    Father’s can also get involved and over-protective of their daughters, financial litigation and slandering and undermining their ex’s and mothers of their sons and ex daughter in laws, and the adversarial system doesn’t help. Can become a bit like Jerry Springer and Jeremy Kyle and it smells because of it. Would be better if the courts sent antagonistic parents to parenting classes.

  4. Yvie says:

    Observer – your post could have been written by me. I am so much in agreement with what you say, particuclarly points 2 and 3. Malicious applications do not always achieve the desired effect, but these applicants do seem to get away with it scott free. Aggressive solicitors who encourage parents to engage in these dubious tactics certainly are not acting in the best interests of the children.
    It seems that it is difficult for some people to understand 50/50 shared care as the default. Parents don’t have to arrange 50/50 if they are unable to do so. The welfare of the child is paramount and if 50/50 wont work, then some other arrangement has to be agreed by the parents. It isn’t rocket science.
    One party does not have to perceive that they hold all the cards. There is no perception about it – they do hold all the cards. Unless the balance is redressed the Courts will continue to thrive on misery.
    In many cases, problems regarding shared care are purely down to protecting income from child benefits and child maintenance. False allegations against the non-resident parent are made because of it.

    • Annon says:

      1) courts r black and white world that puts one parent as bad and the other as good.
      2) hell breaks lose if one labeled wrongly as bad tries to fight to prove innocence and clear their name
      3) there is no need for evidence of allegation like in criminal courts – all is up to judges sole discretion of how to view each patent
      4) solicitors use tactics and agree via back door which parent is weaker and will b vilified and attacked and which one is craftier/stronger and will be the attacker and this sets tone of the case – evidence is in their letters
      5) court welfare officers r a joke-they fear personal attack by parents and judges smearing their career if they try to put truth out that is in oposition
      6) its system that needs changing
      7) there is need for intervention of good independent psychologist/therapists for parents individualy before they get to mediation or court
      8) court, judges, solicitors..etc. are not to heal patents from hurt they inflicted upon one another
      9) there is no perfect recipe – humans are not perfect and machines can not make decisions on human matters this the issue of all of this about children welfare is impossible to be right, just I.e. Perfect
      10) the sooner patents discover own faults instead spending time in pointing faults in the other the children fare better regardless of courts, judges, ..etc.
      11) to all parents in court – find good therapist secretly and get urself sorted first to be better for yourself, children, and to come out of it all healthy and sane and not ill

  5. JamesB says:

    If judges don’t order parents to these classes because of money, I think that could be overcome as I for one would give my time to these for free, as I suspect would many others.

  6. Observer says:

    The problem James is that if your heart is not in the classes but rather in hurting your ex, then classes will have no beneficial effect (like medical treatment).
    Yvie, I agree with you, people for some reason still have a very hard time understanding the difference between a forced 50/50 scenario and a mere presumption of 50/50 which helps parents understand they are both valued, or conversely that neither will get away with cutting the other out. When you have this latter presumption, dads will not simply give up, but finally recognize that they have a chance to be the parents they want to be.
    X, let’s stop throwing up smokescreens around the subject, and recognize that the abuse of power only comes to an end when you’ve got the deterrence program that a 50/50 presumption puts in place. If parents really love their child, they will recognize this is right; if they don’t, then they have no business being parents, and belong in a mental institution.

  7. Yvie says:

    Observer – my son and his ex have not communicated for nearly two years. There has been a bitter court case for 50/50 shared residency which my son did not manage to achieve. However, he did attend a parenting class run by CAFCASS. He was impressed with it and at the end of the final hearing he approached his ex. and suggested for the sake of the children they should start communicating with each other in a pleasant manner. It has got off to a good start and hopefully it will continue. I have some reservations that it may not last. I hope I am wrong.

  8. DT says:

    Many thanks Observer, James B, X and Yvie for taking the time to submit comments; they’re much appreciated.
    Each of your comments has made me think again about this emotive and totally frustrating issue and I’d like to take them one by one.
    I did mention ‘giving up’ under the section titled, “No happy ending” because you’re absolutely right! Some parents (often fathers) do just ‘give up’ and it’s tragic. They must feel totally helpless and hopeless and that everything they do is futile. What’s more, it’s not just horrendous at the time because the ramifications of this ’practice’ are infinite.
    I disagree with your second point, but only in part. I think that implacable hostility is about one’s own set of ‘values’ and therefore, yes, I do think that it comes from within, I think that one chooses to take this approach – it’s not ‘thrust’ upon anybody. However, I take your point that legal aid has been misused over the years where this behaviour hasn’t been identified and therefore certificates have not been challenged.
    I think 50/50 shared care is restrictive. This may not be in a child’s best interests; it could be disruptive, because after all, this is about what is in the best interests of children and not what is best for parents. However, I do not have a problem with shared parenting which may be a more cohesive tact.
    I think you’re spot-on with your comments about 50/50; I totally agree with you.
    As I have often said, there’s good and bad in every profession, however for the most part, I do not accept that solicitors encourage parents to engage in dubious tactics. I have to say, I do struggle with the idea of 50/50 (see above), and if there’s implacable hostility, there’s unlikely to be any kind of compromise at all.
    I wish your son well – he’s obviously doing all he can to make things work in a difficult environment and that has to be admired.
    If people aren’t prepared to be reasonable and, in some instances are even prepared to go to prison, then they won’t attend classes. Furthermore, if they do attend classes, like Observer says, what’s the point if their heart is not in it?
    Best wishes

  9. JamesB says:

    Shock tactics, for example you could have videos of children crying and as adults saying what they need from parents.

  10. DT says:

    Hi James
    I’m not sure that particular approach would work although I do think that if parents knew the true impact of their behaviour, they just might think again. But therein lies the problem – they can’t see the wood for the trees; they’re so engrossed in their own plight, they often forget what it’s all about.

    • Annon says:

      There is no way if a parent is of narcissistic personality that anything can make this parent to change be it orders, money penalties, classes, ..etc. That why system will never work until psychotherapists get involved as soon as couple hit the separation/file application to court. If psychotherapists were fast and cheap to access, and are the first court order made upon parents many children’s mental health would be preserved. But that means legal profession/solicitors would have less work/income.

      • M says:

        The trouble with narcissistic disordered people is they masquerade as normal and make their ex seem the crazy one. Even judges get confused and think this seemingly reasonable, cooperative young man could not possibly be the troublemaker, it must be his seemingly unreasonable, uncooperative ex-wife, the person who is insisting he is not safe to have the child on his own. My daughter’s ex is a narcissistic personality, a domestic abuser, a binge drinker, a clever manipulator an inveterate liar. Before the separation he showed zero interest in parenting and his child (then a toddler) was sufficiently alienated by his abusive treatment of his mother that he used to hit father and say, ‘Stop being mean to Mummy!’, While still living at home, ex used to start drinking at breakfast on weekends and was often absent from the home for days on drinking binges. Suddenly since the separation he is playing the model parent and cannot get enough contact. He tells the court that his ex-wife’s claims that he is a drinker are ‘vexatious’ and an attempt at parental alienation, that he has only ever been a social drinker. He quit his job and has not worked since the separation and contributes nothing in child or spousal maintenance, yet he has taken my daughter to court repeatedly demanding more and more contact. In January 2017 he was arrested and charged with being drunk and disorderly in a public place, while having a minor under 7 (their son) in his care. A team of criminal lawyers got him off on a technicality but he told Family Court that he was innocent (despite damning police evidence – he stank of alcohol,could not stand, the child was suffering neglect – coatless on a bitter cold day etc.) He came up with the theory that he was not drunk but had developed seizures, one of which occurred on 3rd January, and Family Court fell for it, awarding him generous (albeit supervised) custody. My daughter is in despair. But he told her, ‘You never win, no one ever believes you.’ Family Court has proven him right. Last weekend she took her son to the meeting place and her ex did not show up. She rang the supervisor: the ex had cancelled the previous evening at 5 pm. no one had told my daughter. She emailed ex to say he had let down their son yet again. She then received a long abusive email saying that she was the one who had cancelled (!!!) and he would see her in court. She is very frightened because she sees where this is leading: her ex is trying to build a bogus case against her to drag her back to court, get a parental alienation charge slapped on her and win a lot more custody. Based on her experience to date, she does not trust the Court to make wise decisions regarding her son. The last court order did not even bother with a direction that F should not drink before or during contact, which means the judges fell for the seizure story. What can she do to protect her son, who, according to the local authority, ‘suffered significant harm’ from his trauma on 3rd January and on earlier occasions when supervision was prematurely lifted. At the moment, a paid supervisor is used. That is a workable solution, but as of March 2018, for some reason (Father says he cannot pay though parents have three cars and two houses) the Court has ordered that the paternal grandparents start supervising in place of the professional supervisor. The grandparents are very angry, hostile people: at handovers in the past, instead of trying to defuse their son’s hostility and aggression, they joined in, the father even threatening my daughter with his fists. Yet these are people the Court has selected as supervisors. When they served as supervisors during the original supervised period, they were not there when they should have been and they allowed ex to drink (according to then 6-year-old), which was strictly banned. In other words, they do not take supervision seriously. 7-year-old will have to fend for himself, as he had to before during period when supervision was prematurely removed. A nightmare scenario. Unfortunately the Court does not seem overly concerned about child safety. Can anyone give our daughter helpful advice. She is a good and kind person who would not say things about ex to her son, because he is his father, and she would like her son to have a positive image of his father. But ex is disturbed, unpredictable and dangerous, especially when drinking, and it is all the more frightening because he masquerades as reasonable and concerned, and he is so convincing he even believes his own lies – which is the hallmark of the narcissist.

  11. Yvie says:

    The sad fact is that some parents will not co-operate with each other for the sake of the children. It is the child’s right to have meaningful contact with both parents. So what is to be done? Legislation has to be put in place to prevent one parent deliberating denying children their right to see the other parent. If that leislation is contravened, action must be taken by the Courts to discourage such behaviour.
    It shouldn’t be about opinions that this wont work or that wont work. In the majority of cases children want meaningful contact with both parents. They are owed a duty of care by law to ensure that this happens.

  12. DT says:

    Good evening Yvie
    What more can the courts do?
    If a judge makes an order and it is ignored, reaching for the statute book and passing more legislation isn’t going to make somebody steadfastly determined suddenly listen where they wouldn’t before.
    Perhaps more custodial sentences are the answer?!

  13. Yvie says:

    Hi DT – I feel custodial sentences would be harsh and would not help the children. Perhaps the prospect of transfer of residence to the other parent might be some sort of deterent to a parent who constantly thwarts contact.
    What I think is wrong is that the balance of ‘power’ seems to be claimed by the parent with care. I have read, and I stand corrected if I have misunderstood, that neither parent has the right in law for contact with their children and from that perspective they are both equal. Yet it does seem that it is mostly fathers who resort to Court proceedings in an attempt to gain contact with their children.
    That judges can’t or won’t do anything to discourage a parent who prevents contact is just not good enough. Taking the line of least resisistence might seem the best solution at the time but long term, I don’t think the best interests of the child are being served.
    However, on a positive personal note, my son has his two children with him tonight for a twelve day stay. They are excited that they will be staying for nearly two weeks.

  14. DT says:

    Hi Yvie
    Obviously, each case turns on it’s on facts, however, I think transferring residence, (assuming that the non-resident parent is up to it), it a good option. What’s more, I think it’s quite possibly more likely to achieve the best outcome long-term.
    What do you think judges should do differently that they currently aren’t doing to bring about a change in behaviours?
    I wish your son well and I hope that he enjoys time with his children.

  15. Observer says:

    Yvie, I agree with you that custodial sentences are not the answer at the start of proceedings, but where one parent continues to hurt the other and cause pain to everyone around them, then I think they are in order. I think the problem is that judges do not see parental alienation as a form of child abuse, albeit child abuse in slow motion, as it were. It surely is child abuse, and if that cannot be deterred by any means, then a custodial sentence will be better for the children in the long-term, even though it may cause pain in the present.
    Transferring residence, I am told, only happens in very extreme cases where there is undisputed evidence that the Resident Parent is completely unfit, violent, and so on. It needs to happen a lot more and a lot sooner, so that parents know that there is a point at which to stop abusing the system and its leniency, to say nothing of the public purse.

  16. DT says:

    ‘Evening Observer
    I wouldn’t advocate a custodial sentence at the beginning of proceedings either, however, I certainly think that there’s a place for such further down the line in some cases.
    I’ve read quite a lot about ‘Parent Alienation’ and Richard Gardner’s ‘Parent Alienation Syndrome’, however, I’m certainly no expert on the matter. There appears to be a lot of conflicting opinions on the concepts, and I have more reading to do before I can make my mind up about the whole idea.
    While I fully accept that the behaviours we are discussing cause damage and are detrimental, I have a problem with the term ‘child abuse’; but maybe that’s just me. I need to think about it more.

  17. Yvie says:

    I think the new Government proposals will go a long way in ensuring that fathers are not cut out of the lives of their children without good reason. In addition, breaches of Court orders are to be toughened up which if applied, should act as a deterrant.
    Whilst this is good news, I feel that these proposals do not go far enough. The problem is that unless the shared parenting element is clearly defined, in reality the proposed new laws may make very little difference to a Judge when he is reviewing a case.
    This brings me back to the 50/50 shared parenting by law as the default. The decision on how best to parent their children, would once more in the hands of the parents where it belongs and not the judiciary.

  18. DT says:

    Morning Observer
    I have given your comment about implacable hostility leading to parental alienation being a form of ‘child-abuse’ more thought.
    Do you think that Local Authorities should become involved in more cases because the Threshold is being increasingly crossed?
    “the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm”
    s31 Children Act 1989

  19. Observer says:

    I think that implacable hostility is a very dangerous development, and is indeed a matter of child protection; but that courts for too long have just shrugged it off as all part of the emotional process.
    Implacable hostility raises alarm bells that one parent values the welfare and safety of the child less than s/he does the need to hurt the other parent and his/her family. Implacable hostility is a kind of sickness and blindness that is epidemic in a family justice system that could pretty much be said to encourage and condone it.
    If there were no gender discrimination informing the way that Local Authorities operate, then yes, I would like to see more Local Authorities involved. The problem is that Social Services (like all Health authorities and GPs) routinely side with moms, and this just perpetuates the problem. I know of cases where the Social Services was aware that the mom’s boyfriend was a risk to the child, but where the father was still sidelined, not taken seriously as a caregiver. I believe that the Baby P case was similar in that mom’s boyfriend was known to Social Services, but because the Social Services could not fathom (in their peabrain imaginations) the thought of the child being placed in the care of their father, residency with dad was not suggested.
    If Local Authorities were involved in promoting child welfare and transference of residency to dad, then I’d be more optimistic about their role. But at present most parents distrust the LAs, and rightly so, given their disposition to abduct children from family environments that are not very ideal (or appear to be less than ideal) into care environments that are downright abusive. Leave the kids alone would be my mantra. If the state gets involved in the lives of families, it should not be to break them up but to help them.

  20. DT says:

    ‘Afternoon Observer
    I don’t agree that the family justice system promotes / encourages implacable hostility; I do however think that it’s not always identified or picked up on. I’d also say the same for it’s impact and ramifications. 
    I think some behaviours are so insidious, they creep under the radar of those who aren’t truly aware if it’s manifestations and impact.
    I think that the justice system is getting better at dealing with the problem as awareness grows – but there’s a long way to go and I don’t profess to have all the answers!

  21. Observer says:

    The reason I say it promotes implacable hostility is because 9 times out of 10 it rewards this kind of behavior with a Residency order.
    Anyone who has been dragged through the system knows that if shared parenting is being opposed (and if allegations are being made) by one parent, then 9 times out of 10 that parent is implacably hostile. I don’t think that “it’s not always identified or picked up on” is a very good excuse. There is a lot more going on here, which has to do with social engineering and the economy, which rests on employers not having to offer paternity leave, and which has to do with keeping women in their place and men in theirs. I believe Karen Woodall has written quite eloquently about this, or at least touched on these themes.
    The reason I say implacable hostility is encouraged is because it helps the law reach the decisions it has pretty much already made, which is that dad shall be demoted to a twice-monthly visitor who continues to pay child maintenance for that privilege. Implacable hostility is encouraged because it is a convenient tool in the hands of the courts.

  22. DT says:

    ‘Afternoon Observer
    I’ve listened to what you’ve have to say with interest because other people’s perception of this, (what I consider to be a very ‘intangible’ concept), really interests me.
    I wanted to write on this subject because in my opinion, it’s a lot more wide-spread and prevalent, than is known or accepted.
    I think it’s been going on for years and it’s not highlighted often enough.
    I was also interested to hear your views on this being a wider ‘social’ problem; however, I genuinely do believe that ‘the system’ hasn’t always identified this behaviour and it does need to be better identified and known about.

  23. Observer says:

    Thanks DT, but I have real difficulty sympathizing with the view that implacable hostility is not very well known. It’s been written about a lot, though the literature that addresses it is admittedly still quite marginal. But we have known for decades about the controlling behavior and criminal lengths to which some parents will go to cut the other out of the lives of their children. However, it may be the case that awareness of it is increasing in proportion to shifts in social attitudes toward parenting and shifts more specifically in fathers’ sense of duty and responsibility, which extend far beyond being a cash machine to wanting to facilitate the emotional and intellectual growth of their children, and be there for them. What these shifts entail is more litigation. Dads are not taking it lying down any more. This generates a pathological form of anger in moms who expected them to roll over; when they find themselves in court making false allegations in order to maintain control, what you get is entrenchment and the intensification of hostility. This only deepens when moms begin to hate themselves for the criminal depths that they claim their ex-partners have made them sink to.
    You cannot stop a tidal wave, and so it only makes sense that government and judiciary alike fall on their swords, swallow their dumb pride, jettison the status quo, and adopt a position of full support for a presumption of 50/50 shared care.
    This is not a presumption about the rights of parents, but rather about the duties and responsibilities of parents.
    The result will be that both parents know they are valued, decreased litigation, and a more mature approach to raising children in this country.
    Implacable hostilities will peter out, because you will no longer have a system that leads moms to believe that children are things/objects/commodities over which they have full ownership and control.

  24. DT says:

    OK, let me put it another way. 
    I don’t think that implacable hostility is always recognised by professionals. Yes, it’s been around for ever, the phrase was coined some 30 years ago and awareness started to grow, but I think awareness still has some catching up to do. 
    I do think that Fathers’ groups have raised it’s profile.

  25. Observer says:

    Yes, but the problem with father’s groups is that they are not taken seriously. They are not taken seriously because they come across as a little angry, which of course they have very good reason to be; but it doesn’t help dialogue and understanding that much.
    The more malicious reason for which they are not taken seriously is because there are several interest groups, including the media, which has an interest in presenting them as solely concerned with “rights” and little else besides. This has the effect of dissolving any sympathy that they might otherwise have attained. These interest groups are simply playing language games with the public that has an interest in such things. Behind most fathers’ concerns with what are called “rights” is the desire to simply be a good parent and make sure the “rights” of the child to family life (which I believe are enshrined in the UN Convention re: children) are protected. But the language around “rights” has been so perverted that we have lost sight of what is behind the desire for those rights to be protected.
    What concerns me and several others right at the moment, though, is the way that terms like “parental alienation” and “implacable hostility”, which were intended to highlight forms of child and parent abuse, are now just seen by authorities as abstract/meaningless words thrown out there by angry fathers, and pretty much ignored.
    So perhaps it is not the ignorance of implacable hostility that is the problem, but rather the manner in which it is routinely ignored. When things like this are ignored, we might as well say that they are encouraged, condoned and even rewarded.

  26. Yvie says:

    “So perhaps it is not the ignorance of implacable hostility that is the problem, but rather the manner in which it is routinely ignored. When things like this are ignored, we might as well say that they are encouraged, condoned and even rewarded”.
    Observer – that comment rather reflects my son’s case. First there was a prohibitive steps order in 2010 followed by an attempted ex. parte application in 2011.
    I am sure both judges were aware of the vexacious nature of these applications as the first one resulted in my son obtaining a shared residence order and the second resulted in half school holidays (but not the 50/50 which my son had hoped for).
    Neither application appeared to reflect badly on my son, but nor was any action taken against his ex. for submitting them.
    However, my son’s barrister made two comments to my son after the Hearing – firstly, that she was aware of judges who would have imposed a prison sentence for two false applications and secondly, that if my son’s ex. were to file any further applications, the judge would think ‘she had issues’.
    I have no doubt whatsoever that those involved in the Family Courts are well aware of implacable hosility but how it is dealt with, or if it is dealt with, depends entirely on individual judges.

  27. DT says:

    Observer & Yvie
    You’ve both made some really good points and they’re giving me food for thought.

  28. Observer says:

    Yvie, I have to say that I don’t think the barrister was speaking very truthfully to your son. Over the years, the things that I have seen mothers get away with in court – which are far worse than making false applications – would make your hair stand on end indeed.
    Speaking of prison sentences, though, this would be an interesting theme to investigate. My hunch is that they are handed out to dads for the smallest of things, whilst the thought of sending a mom to prison for serious crimes remains unfathomable by the hoary judiciary with their furry eyebrows.

  29. Thankful says:

    It’s great to read this advice, and it’s also great to see the contributor keep coming back to answer questions and discuss.
    I was glad to find there was a phrase entered into the law which describes the actions of both my soon to be ex wife and her mother. The Mother did all of the nasty stuff listed to my ex’s Dad and now they are both working together to get me out of the picture- only this time the mother knows just what worked and what didn’t work and the Dad is no longer with us to be the moral compass.
    The ex didn’t think Social Services getting involved was anything to be concerned about and it was only when they hit her with a no unsupervised contact order that she took note and has spent all the time since then playing catch up and doing her damnedest to “win” and by winning i mean ensuring I have as little contact as she can manufacture and full residency of the children who up until she received the order she didn’t want…
    Chances are in this instant she is going to win and all I can hope is that like my ex when my children get to her teens they figures out how evil her mother was to indoctrinate them against their father with unfounded allegations and words of hate. My Ex had to go through Social Services to be removed from her mother and be put into supported lodgings and now she is all ears for the next ploy.
    I can’t honestly see “justice being served” on this one, it’s going to be a case of marking one up for the bad guys and I just hope she does them no irreparable damage
    Though I am still thankful to read such information and will be looking for more advice like this which might just possibly help to tip the scales…but I am not confident at all. I think some of the things being discussed seems to go above and beyond my perceived capabilities of the solicitor who has been “helping” me try to provide a safe and loving home for my chldren

  30. DT says:

    Thank you for your comments Thankful.

  31. Name Witheld says:

    I currently have my two boys living with me, one is aged 3 and the other 1, my wife had serious mental health problems and after lots of self harming and suicide attempts she left us all.
    She never had a great relationship with her parents, she said her father was abusive when she was younger, punched her and was verbally abusive…..she spoke many times about her previous marrige that she said was abusive….
    Social services got involved and told me to apply for a recidence order, she has two girls from her previous marrige who live with their father under residency.
    We have been in and out of court, she had supervised contact with the boys, now she has the over night, I am happy for the contact now not to be supervised since a medical report that I requested has said she is doing well, I have never had issues with contact, only that I thought contact should be supervised based on the fact of what she had done.
    She wrote many letters whilst in hospital and a couple of short books explaining her difficult past with childhood, marrige ect…. and aslo explained how loving and supportive I have been as a husband and what a rock I have been.
    When she left I was simply exhausted with 18 months of my wife self harming, attempting suicide and being verbaly abusive towards me….
    She has now made several allegations towards me which I can prove are wrong with her written documents that I retained when she left…
    My point is that although I have been very willing for contact to take place, she is being very hostile to the point I feel I cant forgive her for,
    She is on legal aid whilst this is costing me a fortune, where is the justice

  32. Observer says:

    Presumably her legal aid covered the costs of her positive medical report? Money makes this world go round after all.
    I don’t think you should look for justice. Nor is it about forgiving (or not) someone who by the sounds of it is clearly beyond the pale.
    If she were a man, her litigious accusations would be proof enough that this was just an extension of her violence into the courtroom. She has obviously not improved to the point where she can be trusted with kids, and therein lies your position statement, I would think.

  33. Jimmy says:

    I live with my wife. Her ex husband is the birth father of my step children. He is allowed fortnightly contact through a court order. He alleges to family court that my wife was obstructing contact with my step children and he has applied for an enforcement order. He also alleges historic obstruction of contact He provides no dates when any of this is supposed to have occured, and we have documents to show many of his statements are false. In his own statement he even contradicts himself on some events. We have evidence, in the shape of email exchanges with his solicitor from around the time when he initiated the enforcement application that contact was not being obstructed. Surely a judge would dismiss his application?

  34. John says:

    Your article rings so many bells for me. I find the dynamics utterly heartbreaking. My sons’ mother applies unsuccessfully for a sole residence order every year or two. Each application is preceded by an escalation of HAP. Each time the court rejects the spurous arguments presented by a barrister being themselves hositle and stoking up the atmosphere. The result is a more embittered parent now trying harder to sabotage the boys’ paternal contact and incredulous that the court still insists on a shared residence order. Each further application merely entrenches her sense of injustice and she simply ignores the terms of the order at whim. The lack of insight into her HAP precludes ANY resolution. I witness my sons slowly becoming emotionally damaged and our relationship eroded. I am now being told my eldest no longer wants to stay with me and that being the case neither of the boys are gong to be staying with me. I cannot see how applying for an enforcement order is going to change the overall picture and I am terrified that the gearing up of hostility in the interim would just batter the boys emotionally.

  35. Exhausted says:

    I have read your article and wanted to add our experience of hostility and the court system. After my son and his ex separated my son wasted valuable time trying to get contact with his son which the mother would agree to then make excuses why it did not happen, in the end it was his ex that said that ” see you in court “. He felt he had no other option as all attempts to communicate and offers of mediation were refused and as he learned he had to explain to the judge why he had left it so long before seeking legal help !!! it was obvious early on that she wanted 0 contact as she told the court this, their son was 5yrs old and had previously had a good relationship with his dad and paternal family but she just stopped all contact !!!. My sons case has been 3 long years in the courts and I cannot fault their attempts to make contact happen but am saddened that when it became clear that she was influencing their son all the contact centre reports showed it happening it was witnessed at the their sons school that he was told to kick off and the Caffcass report showed it but how to deal with it is the problem. What reasons a parents has for doing this, perhaps compulsory psychological assessment and parenting classes may help the parent to better understand their own emotions and how to deal with them instead of the children having to carry the emotional baggage. I think any parent who refuses all communication for no valid reason should have some sort of consequence as it may help such behavour being passed on from generation to generation. I just hope that implacable hostility or what ever name it becomes known by is dealt with swiftly by Judges as it destroys parents and children the right of a meaningful relationship. As my sons case stands at present we are still at the mercy of the court system and the differing views of judges depending on who hears the case but in the end indirect contact is about the best he can hope for unless big changes are made.

  36. Annette says:

    Very sad situation one in which I am facing with a likely sociopathic parent. Money should be put into treatment and therapy to rebuild the broken relationship.

  37. Katie says:

    This is being used in place of the discredited ‘parental alienation syndrome’ theory of richard gardner. Because most victims are too scared to report abuse they are easy targets for courts to revictimise and accuse them of lying. This means many children forced into contact and even residence with abusive fathers. It is a terrible injustice occurring within the secret family court. The worst is that children are silenced. They ask fot help but no-one listens being they are labelled as having a mother who ‘poisioned’ them against their father when infact she was trying to protect them. One day maybe they will grow up and speak about their suffering but currently many children are trapped in the prison of an abusers house, knowing nobody will help them. This is a poor system and the institutional culture among court professionals of disbelieving mothers (and children) needs to stop.

    • Stitchedup says:

      There are no doubt some abusive parents out there, mothers and fathers, but it is the sheer scale of father estrangement or alienation, whatever you want to call it, that discredits your theory. Far too many women use their children as weapons against the father and are abusing the father and the children in the process. This estrangement and alienation is also very often directed at extended family such as aunts, uncles, grandparents etc. I’m sorry, but your comment is typical of feminist propagated bull shit.

    • Annon says:

      I fully agree w Katie. System is such that somehow most of the time innocent one idealistically hopes for fairness and justice usually ends up not believed as it has no crooked bone to manipulate court arena while culprit rules the roost gaining confidence with every situation when their lies are believed. Children then are not helped and loose trust in life and system and end up carrying this with them for the rest of their life as damage. Mine begged me to avoid driving down the road where CAFCAS was, he hates them for destroying his life. There are three types of split up: One is amicable out of court, other is where one parent leaves and is never seen, third is where one parent is adamant to cause the other one grief be or rightfully or wrongfully. For women this means that the third type has cases where father who has money, skills, ways to via court arena w big family seek covert revenge for leaving him no matter the cost to children. For men third type means there is mother who learned lying about abuse and violence gets her advantage. In both instances court arena just adds to children being damaged in the process w aid of court reporters’ and doc services. This third type has the highest number of many years long court battle and system helping to it by not being up to speed with reality and awareness as if they wear blindfolds.

  38. Paul says:

    This is a very good article.
    Why is the concept of Aliention / implacible hosility so hard to accept ?
    We have so many documented cases.
    We know so much about documented conditions like ‘stockholm syndrome.’
    Coersive control. Ect.
    This is harmful behaviour which children need protecting from.
    The bottom line is that our government has chosen to take a predudicial possition in domestic situations and always side with the parent with care. There objective is to enforce a rift or forced seperation. Getting the father away from the mother and children an forcing the father into the hands of legal professionals where they are exploited (legally robbed) and ground down into a state of hopelessness where by they are encouraged to find a state of acceptance. The alienated father is amputated from his family.
    Its a national disgrace.
    We will look back in years to come and view these family courts in the same way we look at witch hunts.
    The reality is the police and courts have agreed to this mercyless stratergy.
    ‘Victim orientated policing’ – where the parent with care is always viewed as a victim.
    If the father does not accept this situation (as no father should) the parent with care is encouraged by legal professionals to wage a smear campaign against the alienated parent. An the police use harassment notices, harassment charges and anti molestation orders to further alienate him further opening the rift.
    Who would be a man ???
    The worst part about this is that this was designed to stop these ideot fathers who lose the plot and harm there ex or their kids.
    We are all treated as a potential killer or mad man.
    But anyone who has been through this knows and will tell you. Its the utter hopelessness you are made to feel by the system in place. The shear predudice and contempt you are treated with as an alienated parent that causes these people to snap.
    I honestly beleive that if men had some basic rights reguarding seeing their children. An a pressumed right of contact with his kids. We would avoid such horendous incidents. Men could keep their sanity.
    Implacible hostility is a rediculous term. It implys they have no idea where the hosility comes from. It exhonerates a malicious parent from blame. As a consiquence it alsohelps them avoid blame or taking responsibility for their actions.
    We have a princess culture where women do not have to account for there irrisponsible behaviour.
    Parental Alienation best discribes what is taking place. The police/ social services and cafcas aid and abet such alienation because a sepration is in their interest and makes their job less conveluted.
    It is a stratergy they have chosen.
    Keep fighting fathers.
    ‘I dont want to see my daddy’
    – Said no child EVER !!!
    An if that is what the child is saying. You really need to take a close look at the mother and the way she is behaving.

    • Annon says:

      Paul, had it occur to you that children form own opinions at even early age? That it does not mean it reflects the reality but they form it in their own heads. For instance-if child does not know intricaces of father leaving the family home, they may turn off of their father thinking he abandoned and left them and to aly with mum on own accord is just a coping mechanism in split up choppy waters. They might fear she’ll leave too so they ensure any child way they know how to hold onto her. Psychotherapy, psychologist, help to each member of family is needed at early stages. Every one seems to just jump on wagon “mum turned them against father” or “father turned them against mother”. While there r cases this take place not all cases are like that. If court arena is black and white view of world, us parents can chose that it has shades of gray and refuse to be part of culture of all mums vs all dads and all dads vs all mums. Every case is part of the one of many shades of grey that only trained professionals can try and see to untangle.

    • Annon says:

      Paul, please reconsider this stance that it is always siding with mothers. U hv no real data and evidence that it always happen like that. I was victim of highly cunning narcisist who stashed moneys and prepared himself well in advance if I leave him Cs of very cunning subtle but deadly many forms of abuse. He cleverly abused by carefully avoiding chances of being caught. He threw own children a mother of own children on the street carefully crafting repossession situation only to when she left as law required he got into the house repaid missed mortgage payments/maintenance only for court saying he now had bigger house then the mother siding w the father against mother! You saying always is false statement on yr behalf. There r judges who side w Fathers but u hv to hv solicitor’s that cost loads and of course u hv to hv that money.

  39. David says:

    I have been through the courts as a father trying to get access to my daughter and it took 2 years, I applied for contact to resume and was left feeling totally shocked by what I believe was gender discrimination when it comes to how mothers and fathers are treated by cafcass. The courts and to be frank the law and cafcass generic checklists. I was unsuccessful in getting a judge to hold a finding of fact for impliciable hostility, false allegations .My cafcass case worker informed me she was a “feminist”. Her manager thought was not of concern,nor the judge despite the incorrect child’s name in part of the report and the poor standard of reporting. Has anyone got the statistics for successful cases ruled where impliciable hostility was found to have occurred . I believe it is incomprehensible that a significant amount of primary carers(usually mothers but not always) alienate their children from the non resident parent (impliciable hostility). I’m certain the statistics if recorded don’t say the same. Meaning the courts don’t believe in principle that this law should be used. I believe this is morally wrong and not in any child’s interest. Despite my limited success , feelings with regard to the courts, cafcass for me this is about my daughter. The best advice I can give is the following .Nobody said being a parent is easy, imagine your child has turned 21 and asks you why weren’t you there or there such a few times in my life to date. The only acceptable answer is I may not have been but here’s what I did to try and be there! The wrong answer I believe is it was too hard or too much trouble! I would plead to the law makers to make the family courts gender neutral. That includes cafcass because the real victim in my case and significant amounts of other cases is not the non resident parent, it’s the child.

  40. A dad says:

    Currently going through court for the third time,won equal 50/50 shared residency june 2011, son was 15 months old, daughter was 3, cafcass reccomended equal 50/50, mum broke it 3 years later, just warned her about jail, 7 years later( as i type ) mums broke it again, i sense mum is going to use ” daughters 13 now wants to live with mum ) shes apparently been having pvt conversations with her the last few month.

    Cafcass in my case were brilliant, judges were brilliant, but lets see if they are this time.
    Mum has been giving daughter far more freedom etc since she turned 11… indirect brainwashing in my opinion…we shall see.

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