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Cafcass proposes new parental alienation measures

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March 28, 2024

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) has proposed new measures to deal with the issue of parental alienation.

Following a divorce or separation, if one parent deliberately tries to prevent their children from seeing or establishing a relationship with the other, this is parental alienation. It usually occurs after an acrimonious split. Earlier this year, Cafcass said this was child abuse.

The issue has been present in between 11 and 15 per cent of divorces involving children, according to official estimates. However, Cafcass believes this number could be on the rise.

Assistant Director Sarah Parsons said they “realised that it’s absolutely vital that we take the initiative” to combat alienation, calling their new approach “groundbreaking”.

Offending parents will first be given the opportunity to change their behaviour with the help of intense therapy. If they are not receptive to this, the parent could have their children taken away from them. In extreme cases, they could even face the prospect of a permanent ban from any form of contact with their children.

Starting in the spring of 2018, Cafcass workers will be given a new set of guidelines which will set out what steps they need to take if they suspect alienation is taking place in their cases. This “high conflict pathway” will also state when exactly it is appropriate to remove children from the care of offending parents.

Parsons said Cafcass wanted to “send a very clear, strong message” about parental alienation, as well as “develop a more nuanced, sophisticated understanding of what’s going on”.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Mr T says:

    Can’t come soon enough. a two-year-old girl is being alienated right now.

  2. Dr Manhattan says:

    This could be used as another Excuse weapon against parents to remove children for Adoption. talk about two steps forward and three steps back. they also dont mention anything about Social workers being involved in deliberate Parent Alienation with lies and deception when contact is stopped to serve an Agenda.

    • George says:

      This is absolutely true. In my case I belive my ex didn’t want to do this but was pushed and convinced by the social worker. This social worker [name removed] spoke to me…me who was the main carer of our children for the last 5 years. She could come and pick my ex up go for a coffee and the drop her off and go. Nothing like how have you and the children been? Then one day she told her to take the children and lie they are going to a party. That’s the last i saw of my children. 5 months and counting. This evil nonsense has to stop now. It’s causing good fathers to kill themselves at an alarming rate. Also the kids about domestic violence and abuse to get legal aid has to be delt with. If you at violent and abusive you should and must have been locked up but if they did their investigation and concluded there was no evidence then they is just an allegation and should be treated as such
      (*Comment moderated)

  3. Peter Davies says:

    Firstly, let’s remind ourselves that Cafcass ADVISE courts, judges determine cases, implement the law and vary it incrementally when called for whilst parliament make the laws. Cafcass provide a service: they DO NOT dictate policy.

    Secondly, Cafcass are widely regarded as ‘experts’ in the family court yet they do not make the same open declarations as other experts concerning the extent and limits of their expertise. Rather, they actually sidestep and avoid transparency and accountability. There is good case law to illustrate how courts have disgarded medical evidence because of a doctor’s lack of specific expertise. Yet, in the family court we routinely have social science graduates pronouncing upon psychological and mental health matters that they recieve little if any formal training in and before coming to cafcass the average child protection social worker is unlikely to get any experience or on the job training in PA. The PA training available to Cafcass workers is optional, poorly subscribed to (around 2%) and thoroughly inadequate.

    Thirdly, these decrees from Cafcass have been made without first having the benefit of any expert advice and if their training material is anything to go by without even a visit to the library beforehand.

    Fourthly, Latey J first acknowledged the reality of PA behaviours as intractable hostility, in the family court, some 34 years ago. Wall J regarded PA as ‘…a well recognised phenomenon’ 14 years ago, aroud the tiime Anthony Douglas took up office. In the meantime Cafcass have actively ignored court findings and undermined the judiciary and the rule of law in the process. Their arrogance, in suddenly agreeing that PA is a problem after ignoring it for so long, in spite of numerous judicial reminders, is truly breathtaking

    Only a few years ago Sarah Parsons was trumpeting the virtues of evidence based practice in Cafcass ‘conclusions’ in the Family Law Journal. Once again Sarah is showing how Cafcass agrandise their worth because they are actually supposed to provide advice and their input is by no means conclusive or determinative. They do not make the decisions: judges do. She claimed that these principles had been embedded in Cafcass practice yet this recent announcement demonstrates that any embedding is so shallow that to quote Munby P, it is merely ‘ a tottering edifice’.

    The evidence shows that Cafcass are not to be trusted when it comes to fulfilling their statutory responsibilities. Transparent attempts to mollify the gullible and false hopeful conceal years of prejudice and inactivity. It simply will not wash any more. It would be a welcomed change for us all if Cafcass meant what they said, said what they really meant and did their homework.

  4. Rum says:

    Omg this could lead to catastrophic consequences. Being a parent that has been part of a branded parent alienation onslaught bullying campaign was horrific . Will Caffcass and Nyas yet proof before dishing out their narcissistic accusations and punishment ? Or will the parent have to stressfully wait until the abuser backs out of the case as scared stiff to be cross examinated, or better still hangs himself with more abuse to the child in supervised contact ? Because as it stands in my case , the only person that suffered more emotional abuse of a parent who Nyas said didn’t need a part 25 was our children . The cloak of parent alienation used until their case fell away in his hands . He couldn’t help himself . This post scares the hell out of me as I can only see some parents being caught and branded ‘ parent alientation’ As they managed to just keep above water until the case was over . I was fortunate . My child wasn’t . Very frightening . Let us hope they use this with only 100 pcent proof .

  5. S says:

    And what about those parents who have suffered as a direct result of Cafcaas not recognising PA? Will those parents be allowed to have their cases re-heard by the Courts now that new guidelines and more training is being proposed? It should never have taken this long to address when other countries have already made PA illegal. It’s shameful we are only now acknowledging the absolute devastation caused by this form of child abuse. A child should not be made to suffer because the parents don’t get on, it’s cruel and unnecessary. The quicker it’s stamped out the better for everyone involved.

    • Paul Massey says:

      an excellent question…

    • Peter Davies says:

      You may well ask S but I think the position is more serious than that. Cafcass are a public body and part of the executive branch of government. As such they they bound by judicial decisions that affect their practice and their ability to safeguard children. Far from cafcass being permitted to define pa for themselves, surely it is encumbant upon this public body to come up with a means of safeguarding children and advising parents that accords with the statutes and case law. It’s high time cafcass stopped grandstanding and started behaving like a service that we all fund when we pay court fees.

    • Peter Davies says:

      Let us not forget either S that Cafcass are 34 years late arriving at this party. Apart from being very late arrivals they are commenting upon a psychological / mental health matter that is outwith their area of expertise. Why are they given more credence in this regard than doctors who lack specific knowledge and experience for example? What is the evidential basis for their unilateral decision that PA should be viewed through the prism of conflict? Why have they ignored a child protection matter for 30 + years?
      If cafcass disagree with judicial decisions the place to challenge these is via the critical evaluation of EVIDENCE via the court process. Quite simply we are being short changed and treated with utter contempt by an organisation that has yet to earn our trust and is yet again attempting to pull the wool over parent’s eyes.

  6. Rumble says:

    Reply to Peter. Yes they are not medical experts but they are allowed to submit recommendations of having a family assessment that does not even come near or tackle any assessment under part 25 disorder or mental capacity assessment . My judge ruled on a family assessment and no benefit of doubt , even with years of evidence from the children ignored . GBecause they believed there was no disorder or personality issues . Then it started again in contact . Did they apologise ? Did they then say to the judge we gave them no benefit of doubt ? No they certainly did not . Did Nyas put forward any recommendations to just test if the mother and children were telling the truth ? Like heck did they as they was looking at the best interests . Until for the 20000 time the abuse continued and they could not uphold it . They gave no apology , no way forward and we all lost the chance of getting the support and assessment needed . To work towards the dis order. Parent alienation , used as their tool . They are not experts but they sure as hell lie, don’t apologise and still continue to not uphold any assessment. This new rule will be horrific . I must also say that they are just an aid John to help the judge, but case law and reports show they are given far too much weight . In my case, all the weight. Thank god he just couldn’t help his old self, even in supervised contact . Hideous results and so much pain . They never listened once . Benefit of doubt with evidence needs to be given on both sides of the coin .

  7. Linda says:

    Parent alienation is much much more than 15% more like 90% just dosnt get reported fathers too scared to say anything they don’t want to rock the boat to make contact even less or not at all. Go on fatherscontact , pad, fathersforjustice web sites heart breaking.

  8. S says:

    Thanks Peter, I agree with your comments. Cafcaas play such a vital role in building the foundation of a case and if they don’t have the expertise than they and the Courts should be funding PA experts to look further instead of calling it a conflict beween two parties. This is very distressing and extremely unfair for the parent who is alienated. These cases are on the increase and they need help outside their area of expertise. This is so damaging for the children and the alienating parents should be brought to account fast so it can be stopped asap.

  9. Robin says:

    There’s no point pretending. CAFCASS dont make final judgements and I entirely agree with Peter Davies. There is also an inherent bias and discrimination against men with most court officials being female. Until officials and in particular the actual decision makers have a fair balance of both women and me, then decisions made on behalf of children will be not in their interests.
    Because of austerity and financial pressures, I don’t expect the process to improve. I was subjected to the most humiliating measures to see my children being hung out dry by two girls half my age equipped with a clipboard in a contact centre in what were the most unnatural environments to supposedly assess my parenting skills- all directed by Cafcass. I would never want to go through such humiliation ever again.

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