Earlier this week Cafcass suggested that ‘parental alienation’ is a form of child abuse. This is when one parent tries to turn their children against their former partner.
Over the course of her 37-year career as a solicitor, Marilyn Stowe has dealt with thousands of people. In her experience those who try this tactic commonly present themselves as a victim. But, as she explains in this video, that is often not the case.
Press play to hear her thoughts on this emotive issue.
Hello, welcome to my video blog. Today is quite a milestone for me in my career because believe it or not, hopefully not, I have been qualified 37 years. 37 years ago today I was appearing for the very first time also in a Magistrates court. If you want to read about what happened to me on that day, please head to the post ‘My first day in court’ and read it in all its gory detail.
Over 37 years I have become a family law practitioner. I have seen a lot of things in my career through acting for people. Not an academic speculating. Not an academic who thinks their opinion is better than anybody else’s. What I am is a practitioner who has listened to thousands of people through my career and formed an opinion based on that. What I think I have noticed most of all is that there are people who will always criticise the law. There will be people, no matter what you do, no matter how it is applied who will say the law is biased in favour of women or the law is biased in favour of men. I think it is a problem that will never be solved. I personally don’t think there is anything at all wrong with our law. What I have noticed over the 37 years is that the interpretation of the law by different judges changes. Perhaps it is that interpretation that causes the outcry.
Through my career I have also noticed how best to deal with a couple. There are lots of people who will say that they are victims of parental alienation and that is something that we discuss on the blog today. Finally Cafcass are saying out loud that perhaps this is a form of child abuse. My experience is that a person who carries out parental alienation is usually someone who presents as a victim but is far from a victim. Really an aggressor. Somebody who is so embittered by the breakdown of the marriage that the answer is to ensure that the partner never sees the child again. It’s a terrible thing.
So what would I suggest is the best way of proceeding if I don’t think the law should change?
As a mediator and an arbitrator I have acted in cases where people have been sitting in front of me. As a mediator I am not allowed to give legal advice simply to help a couple reach an agreement between themselves. I have never quite understood that because as a lawyer, that is my inclination. As an arbitrator, a couple can sit in front of me and I can impose a solution upon them.
What I would suggest might be a very good idea indeed, especially since legal aid is still available for mediation, is to extend it to a scheme where one couples can have one lawyer who can advise them both sitting together and help them reach a sensible solution. That is my suggestion and I commend it to everybody and wish everybody all the very best in the future. Thank you.