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”.