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A few thoughts on Cafcass’s new approach to parental alienation

Late on Friday The Guardian reported, under the headline ‘Divorcing parents could lose children if they try to turn them against partner’, that Cafcass is about to trial a “groundbreaking” process to prevent ‘parental alienation’. It was an eye-catching headline, and no doubt caught the attention of many with an interest in the family justice system, particularly fathers’ rights groups, who may have hopes that the process represents a new dawn for the system, at last tackling head on the scourge of parental alienation. I am not so sure, and I thought I would set out my thoughts on the report.

Before I go on I should say that I am only commenting upon the contents of the Guardian report. In particular, I have not read, or even seen, the draft Cafcass ‘High Conflict pathway’ guidelines that the report mentions. The guidelines will apparently itemise the steps which Cafcass caseworkers must take when dealing with cases of suspected alienation. I understand that they are expected to be published in February or March of next year.

The first point I wanted to make was the suggestion in the report that judges in this country have only recently begun to recognise the phenomenon of parental alienation. This is of course nonsense – judges been recognising the phenomenon for years, long before the term ‘parental alienation syndrome’ was coined back in the 1980s.

The main point I wanted to make, though, was about that headline. As I indicated, it no doubt sounds great to some, but just how realistic is it that children will be removed from parents found ‘guilty’ of parental alienation? Firstly, it is not of course up to Cafcasss whether they are removed, it is up to the courts. Cafcass can only advise the courts, and make recommendations. Secondly, whether or not there is evidence of parental alienation the courts are still governed by the principle that the welfare of the child is paramount – it may very well be that, even if there has been parental alienation it is still the case that the welfare of the child would best be served by remaining with the alienating parent. You simply cannot have a rule that says ‘if there has been parental alienation, the child will be removed’.

The same goes for the suggestion that ‘alienating’ parents will have their time with their children restricted, or even curtailed. Such things are up to the court, not Cafcass, and will be determined by reference to the welfare principle.

Another aspect of the welfare principle is that the parent is able to meet the child’s needs. In many cases, the ‘non-alienating’ parent (referred to in the report as the ‘target parent’) will simply not be in a position to look after the child. What happens then? The report mentions the possibility of care proceedings being instituted, but realistically how often will a child be taken into care because of parental alienation?

My very strong feeling is that the number of parents who have their children removed from them because they have been ‘guilty’ of parental alienation will be very small, and the number who will be stopped from having any contact with their children will again be a very small proportion of that number. In other words, much of this will amount to little more than bluff, hoping that the fear of ultimately having their children removed will be sufficient to bring ‘alienating’ parents into line.

But I am not entirely negative about all of this.

I like, for example, the idea of a “positive parenting programme”, an intense 12-week programme designed to help the abusive parent put themselves in their child’s position, and give them skills to break their patterns of behaviour. This could be an excellent addition to the court’s ‘toolbox’ of options to deal with parental alienation.

I also like the idea of a more nuanced understanding of the ‘spectrum’ of parental alienation that the report mentions. I clearly recall myself from my years practising that parental alienation took many forms. Some of these were so ‘minor’ that the term ‘parental alienation’ was never applied to them, but ‘minor’ ‘offences’ can add up, and ultimately have a similar result to the more extreme manifestations of parental alienation that we all know.

And despite my expectation that the ‘stick’ of removing children from ‘alienating’ parents will very rarely be applied, perhaps the new process will send out “a very clear, strong message” to parents, as Sarah Parsons, the assistant director of Cafcass, mentions in the report. If so, and if that message is heeded, then the process will have been a success.

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:

    Some very good points for discussion John on a topic that is hot off the press.

    Can I just make one thing absolutely clear – obsessed alienators cannot be “cured” this pathological.

    They are likely the children of alienating parents themselves repeating history maybe even in some cases being advised by grandparents who are still alienators a generation later!

    In most cases, there will almost certainly be and its widely documented by many highly regarded professionals in this area BPD or NPD (and possibly other behavioural issues). This is not going to be magically cured by a 12-week Cafcass programme when some of these people have been like this for forty plus years of their lives, don’t want to admit they have an issue especially not the label and stigma of NPD! I have a close friend who took 9 months to accept she had an issue and that was with weekly therapy.

    This cannot be fixed with an admission they got it wrong and a sticking plaster, the most extreme cases will need specialist help like DBT that Marsha M. Linehan advocates.

    As much as I’d love to brand all of the evil I’d much rather expose and advocate a way forward for them as people who are clearly not happy and are suffering from behavioural issues. Why? Because it’s what’s best for them, their children and everyone around them.

    Good grounding article though. I remain hopeful that any progress is in fact progress but at the same time have had the hope thoroughly beaten out of me by the courts and an obsessed alienator so remain like you sceptical.

  2. David Eggins says:

    You say effectively that the courts decide. We have recently written about 30 reports – I can’t say for the courts, because the courts stopped funding them about 4/5 years ago – so the reports end up being paid for by the individual, but they are reports which have been used in court. They summarise and explain the work we have undertaken and completed with domestic abusers, in some cases perpetrators of abuse and in other cases abusers or people accused as perpetrators of IPV. In two recent cases the court had made their decisions, positively, from our point of view, only for Cafcass operatives to have effectively blocked that decision.

  3. Helen says:

    When I asked for help many years ago, it was thought impossible. I know some judges despaired after making court orders the failed, one of the parents had abducted and ran.
    As I keep saying with the situation I have, help. Now 15 years old, my grandchild has gone all this time with just my contact. As I said, they did not want mediation, although they abducted and ran. Not much you can do with aggressive attitudes and international law.
    Like in Vienna, the Beth Alexander and her twins case. I don’t like this situation of blame, there has to blame. If it’s not the truth, the trauma people are being put through. The control, and only allowing an outcome that suits the alienating partner.
    There much to be done internationally, as well as cost, different languages and laws.

  4. Dwayne Huston says:

    Please take the time to truly understand what many are calling “parental alienation”…

    • Peter Davies says:

      Hi Dwayne
      I hope you are on commission!
      The fact is that parental alienation and intractable hostility are terms that have already been argued, accepted, understood and used in the family court of England and Wales for up to 34 years.

  5. Peter Davies says:

    I note that John has not read the high conflict pathway and if he actually likes kids I suggest he keeps it that way. However, Cafcass’s obsessive use of the conflict paradigm, which flies in the face of expert opinion, that is those who are actually qualified to comment in the courts on psychological matters, is misleading, clumsy and inept. I’ll try to explain who this is a lazy mischaracterisation of the reality experienced by alienated parents but firstly let me explain the context of severing a relationship between a parent and a child. This is a concept that CAFCASS appear to struggle with but fortunately Munby P has explained it for them.
    In Re C, a moving case involving the prospective adoption of a little girl taken into care as a result of child protection proceedings, Munby J observed:
    ‘…it must never be forgotten that, with the State’s abandonment of the right to impose capital sentences, orders of the kind which judges of this Division are typically invited to make in public law proceedings are amongst the most drastic that any judge in any jurisdiction is ever empowered to make.’
    So there you have it: officially from the boss himself. In other words, after the death penalty, severing a relationship between a parent and their children is one of the most draconian powers available to the courts. It is no less devastating or draconian if it is done by another parent. It is especially so when it is done for no good reason. The motives can be no more than completely irrational and pathological spite and hatred. But the effects are no less devastating and all embracing because they attack fundamental and base instincts. The targeted parent suffers intense feelings of frustration, impotence, powerlessness and hopelessness because of it.

    The dynamic is all about coercion and power. It is amongst the most extreme forms of coercion and abuse of power which, according to the president, is second only to capitol sentence in its dire consequences. This is the context and the seriousness of what has happened. It is all very one sided and controlling. There is a definite perpetrator and there are two classes of victim, the estranged parent and the child who has become valuable currency and a pawn.

    After the threats of a conviction for harassment unless one stops attempting to broker contact there will inevitably come the blocking of telephone communications, blocking of social media, blocking of friends and family that could be intermediaries leaving only the possibility of mail but when these too get returned what else is there? Out of utter desperation and worry that your children will now become the focus of the other parent’s obsessive rage there is only one feasible route remaining because the fact is that social services involvement, with a social worker that is completely untrained in the alienation dynamic, poses a real risk of losing contact anyway. Therefore, in the end all paths lead to the family court.

    At this point the Child Arrangements Program dictates the progress of attempts to resume a relationship with ones kids. However, before firing off the C100 we first need to part with £100 and attend a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) to get the attendance certificate that is the ticket to obtaining a first hearing resolution appointment (FHDRA). This is an additional source of frustration because Sturge and Glasser have already told the courts, 17 years ago in fact, that mediation is useless when there is an implacably hostile. But we still have to sit the while a bored mediator feigns active listening by nodding every now and again because the government decided that civilised adults discuss their children’s futures and make nice arrangements for them, Besides that, the hostility often does not suddenly just come out of the blue. There are likely to have been past attempts at mediation and a litany of broken promises and controlling behaviour. Nonetheless, it is a ring one has to jump through.

    After weeks, sometimes months, have passed the day of the FHDRA arrives. After a brief speech from the magistrates the two parties get ushered into a side room for yet another attempt at mediation which we have already been told DOES NOT WORK in these cases. Remember that this will often be the first and only opportunity to communicate with the alienating parent in months. Bearing in mind the gravity and seriousness of severing a relationship with ones children it is expecting rather a lot of even the calmest targeted parent to appear anything other than a conflicted individual at this point. The manifestation and appearance of conflict at this isolated snapshot in time is a self fulfilling prophesy as is the predictable sweetness and ever so reasonable almost serene demeanour of the alienator who smiles confidently in the comforting knowledge that they are in control. That the other parent appears frustrated or aggressive under the circumstances is another self fulfilling prophesy and with the way advice regarding the uselessness of mediation has been systematically brushed under the carpet it all has the feel of having been stage managed and manipulated to elicit a particular and highly predictable response from the victim parent but it creates an illusion because there has been a clever sleight of hand that favours the alienator’s acting out before the court.

    To describe this as conflict is a lazy mischaracterisation based upon a unique moment in a dynamic that has actually existed and persisted for months if not years. It disguises the reality that one parent has chosen unilaterally to, for the avoidance of confusion i will repeat, exert a degree of power that is second only to the state taking someone’s life, in its seriousness. The term conflict is loaded because it suggests an equality of arms and equal apportionment of blame. In reality there is absolutely no equivalence whatsoever between severing contact and one parents intense feelings of frustration at being powerless to actually do anything about it. John has previously used the term ‘nuclear option’ to describe the removal of a child from a parent and it could be more accurately applied to this situation because contact has been severed unjustifiably whereas when the state reverses residence it is usually done to protect a child from emotional abuse and harm. There is such a gross imbalance of power that to describe it as a conflict is grossly misleading it is like describing a disagreement between someone armed with a club and another with nuclear missiles as a conflict when there is absolutely no equivalence or matching of power whatsoever.

    Witnessing domestic violence and actual parental conflict is widely recognised as emotionally harmful for children. But when one parent has not been allowed a place in a child’s life for months or years to describe that situation as being conflicted is also grossly misleading because the child has only seen or been influenced by one of its parents.

    The conflict paradigm serves one purpose and that is to deliberately mischaracterise alienation as just another set of warring parents. It grossly underplays the culpability of one parent at the expense of the other and results in children being emotionally abused with the blessing of the organisation that is charged with a statutory duty to protect them. It is now time that CAFCASS stopped grandstanding did their jobs and fulfilled their statutory duties.

    • Mags says:

      I have been researching a specific case where a guardian appointed to a child from CAFCASS CYMRU, totally disregarded a Judge’s advice from a fact finding hearing, ignored police evidence that the mother was lying in court AND to the police, and despite finding that there was a clear loving bond between father and child she went against contact from start to finish. And when you complain, you must bring it up in the court hearing, because they are not interested and take no responsibility for telling lies and misleading the court. They are damaging and destroying and they are being paid to do it!! It is about time they were removed from the family law system all together. They are a disgrace. What will it take for the government to listen!! There was a Cafcass guardian who falesly accused a father of sexually touching his child who continued in her job for months until she admitted she had lied. Imagine she hadn’t admitted it. How many more are there who enjoy destroying people’s lives.

    • kurtis howard says:

      Then why does or has cafcass not recognise it.I know their pretending to change their tune now.”Oh yes we have a plan . A Builder down the road told me what he thought and weve knocked a few ideas about over a coffee,so to all the doubters yes we have a plan to implement .Anymore questions” As for the judges, the difference between having heard and understanding it are completely different.Psychologists who you would expect to pick up on PA completely miss it ,especially when the alienating parent is in the interview.Cafcass are not qualified to deal with children, they are only basically qualified as Probation officers and have no training in Parent alienation.The main reason for alienation, is it financially benefits the custodial parent to keep the None resident person away.The less time you have the more Child support you pay.Not a bad result ,if you have fallen out with someone to beat them around the head. 50/50 as in Finland is the most child and family friendly way .

    • Angela Ruberto says:

      AMEN. I would normally say he should have read the pack before commenting but given the pack doesn’t actually say much and the most important tool in the pack is not one Cafcass actually uses… I will let him off.

      Absolutely right, archaic process based on archaic understanding of what parental alienation is. Yes there are levels of alienation with many factors to consider but pure full blown alienation is as a result of having one parent with a personality disorder. I say one because it is unlikely two narcissitic people form relationships in the first place – too much completion for getting their needs met.

      The signs are pretty easy to spot. Psychotherapy is what is required.

      Systematic abuse of children supported by the courts, lawyers and women’s rights groups. Only interested in maintaining the status quo. Poor lost souls. Pick your partners carefully folks – can happen to anyone of you male or female.

  6. Brian says:

    I was formerly a Cafcass manager, practitioner and mediator and reacted to the Guardian article much as you have done, John – with scepticism (frustration too), but also hopeful of something positive. It reads a bit like sensational journalism and the Cafcass approach appears too simplistic. Of course, the phenomenon of ‘parental alienation’ has been recognised for many years and I was involved in a number of such cases, including cases where residence of the children was transferred from one parent to the other. They are heartbreaking and complex and solutions that are truly in the best interests of the child difficult to achieve & tend to be about choosing the lesser of bad outcomes. It is of course (thankfully) the courts and not Cafcass that makes the decisions in such cases and I can’t foresee there being more than a handful of cases where residence can realistically be transferred from one parent to the other.

    • Sharon says:

      Can you please help me I’m in this very situation and I’m beyond stuck on where I’m meant to go please I appreciate anything that will help my son [email address removed]

      • Cameron Paterson says:

        Hello – I’m sorry to hear about your plight. It’s not a good idea to leave your email address on websites like this but we will pass your address to anyone who wishes to contact you directly

    • Peter Davies says:

      Hi Brian
      I think i speak for many of us Brian when i say how grateful i am that , as a former cafcass manager you have commented on this thread. I note you are grateful that judges make these decisions and not cafcass. But, i also note, as with other practitioners, that you appear to have seen quite a lot of something that others describe as ‘rare’.

      You clearly have a knowledge and experience of the alienation phenomenon but how did you get this? Was it through training provided by Cafcass or via some other means such as personal research?

      • Mr T says:

        I very much echo Peter’s comments here about it not being rare. I suspect the public perception is quite different from the reality of the real world and the courts.

        I would love to see specialists in alienation brought in to advise the judiciary in certain cases this would help immensely. Very early on in other words 1-2 breaches or stops in contact should be a warning flag for them to get involved.

        I do think there are other external factors at work like the CMS financially incentivising women to not want their children to spend time with their dads – this needs to change asap – this, however, is a much larger conversation of equality.

      • Emaline Shields says:

        His knowledge stems from his own experience as a narcissistic parent. He knows all the tricks in the book and has numerously showcased his abuse of authority in his home life too. People have no idea what these professionals home lives are like. My father is a malovent, manipulative and abusive man not to mention parent. I find it shocking that people with such disorders are allowed in careers that comment on the wellbeing of children. it is a massive joke to me that my father is still in his job, i was kicked out the house at 16, abused and beat from the age of 6 and well euite frankly growing up he has used my mental illness against me. I was diagnosed with severe depression at 12 and referred to CAMHS in medway, my father quite blatantly refused treatment for me as it would ’embarrass the family’ and ‘make him look bad’. When i was 17, i went into an episode and he punched me in the face and then when the police got called, i tried to tell him what he did and he simply said “She is mentally ill, please take her away”.

        I would love to stay at criticise his parenting skills more but quite frankly i’m not that petty and i live a contact free life from my narcissistic father and codependent mother. I simply comment because i find most of the people involved with him professionally stupid for even hiring him and disordered people should not be in charge of other childrens wellbeings when they simply abuse their own.

        And this is why social services have a bad rep.

    • Adele says:

      Hi Brian
      You say former cafcass- I have been in litigation for 7 years now the father stopped seeing the children 8 years ago he brought it back saying I’d stopped access, wrong he stopped seeing his children after 6 section 37 reports only 2 wee near correct I’ve been threatened for 4 years that he wants full custody of the one child I have still living with me- he has no home and no stability I’ve given this the whole time I have a guardian and solicitor for the child that are working with the father to remove from my care ….. I have done everything the courts have asked of me but it’s not good enough for the father I’ve asked to go to mediation but father expect me to pay half!!!! I earn a third of what he gets and I have a living stable happy home for the child he has a family that alianates me but they only believe his lies even a psychologist that has said I have pas and many other conditions that the child should be removed from my care….. I am an amazing parent that has continually encouraged the child to see the NRP
      He alianates me and allows everyone to think it’s me. I don’t have money to bring this back to court he does the parent that brings it back to court is always listened to the RP is ignored the father has them eating out of his hand I’ve been honest and truthful and recently found out my address and medication was exposed to the father he’s using this to remove the child from my care do you think that’s right ? The child has not seen the father for 3 months and the onus was put on the RP who made the child available on the correct dates but they blame RP even with black and white evidence the system is removing children from loving caring parents and the system is handing over children to the narcists controllers that don’t care how the child feels

  7. Sharon bain says:

    Please if you are reading this John please contact me your description is my situation to the letter I’m lost scared and confused and need help to rectify this situation my email [email address removed]

  8. Sharon bain says:

    If anyone commenting can help me advise anything please contact me [email address removed] I am being blamed for parental alienation which is completely untrue and unfounded my son is going to be removed from my care in 3 months if I can’t successful make contact work even though my 11 year old son with asd and Adhd has not seen his dad in almost 3 years due to personal issues ( being dealt with by the police ) between them please please can anyone help me please

    • Mags says:

      Sharon there is nothing set in stone that will stop what the Court feels is ‘in the best interests of a child’ but if I was in your shoes I would ask every professional person who you and your child have regular contact with, to provide you with references. GP, teachers, consultants, neighbours even. Try not to sling mud, just show the court that you are a willing and able parent but the system doesn’t suit your child as he has general difficulties with which only professionals or parents of children with similar difficulties would understand. The help of your GP or a Consultant who works with your child would probably be most persuasive. Good luck x

  9. Helna says:

    PAS has been used as it was intended by Richard Gardner, against mothers and children who dare to talk about abuse. Its junk and was found not admissible by a higher court along with ‘implacable hostility’. There are thousands of children being forced into unsafe contact and residence with abuse and violent parents (usually fathers). The mother is then cut out of the childs life and ‘alienated’ by the abuser, Cluster B , narc/sociopath who uses the children to cause the ultimate pain to their victim…taking children from a mother.
    Some parents turn their children against the other but its rare, and whats more common is an institutional culture among court professionals that most mothers are lying or deluded about abuse.

    In our group we have to support mothers and children through a life of continuing abuse when they thought they had left it behind. We are even saying don’t leave if you can, so you can take the abuse yourself, learn self-defense, shield the children and not have your children taken from you to be alone and unprotected. We are taking matters into our own hands because child ‘protection’ does not protect. The family court is a chilling nightmare.

    • JamesB says:

      re : We are even saying don’t leave if you can, so you can take the abuse yourself, learn self-defense, shield the children and not have your children taken from you to be alone and unprotected.

      I don’t know your group, perhaps advise on that, but was thinking to add to that, if he or she hits you, leave, or preferably get him or her ejected, then go for indirect or supervised contact with legal aid. I agree with you walking as a lifestyle choice as is usual often (I deliberately did not use the word usually) makes the situation worse for the children or all concerned, except perhaps the lawyers.

      • Heln says:

        Obviously because PAS theory would be used yo say she’s lying or deluded or its not important and the fathers rights are priority. Direct contact will be given and the child refuses they’ll be punished by being forced to live with the father and abused for years. This is the pattern worldwide

        • JamesB says:

          I don’t know, if abuse takes place then I don’t, in the age of video phones etc. and given the law trying to prosecute these given the power of female lobbying organisations like Mumsnet and woman’s aid and gingerbread (Theresa Mays oftentimes going on about getting even tougher on abusers) see the problem in proving it. Sorry, but perhaps it is an excuse for legal aid.

          I do hate the false accusers very much, it makes it more difficult for the real cases.

          I think the answer should be divorce on demand after a while and somewhere for everyone to go. Calling abuse and expected to be rewarded for it is the system causing the problem. Coersive control seems a bit small to move with to me.

        • JamesB says:

          I have never seen non resident parents abuse resident parents. It is surely a small minority (rather than the numbers you quote) which can be dealt with in court with existing laws.

          I have seen resident parents frequently upset by the perceived intrusion in their and ‘their’ childrens lives by the non resident parent who they would rather just disappeared but paid and often they try and alienate them and not work to co-parent as they should. Cafcass and the courts try and get them (the nrp and rp) to work together but both sides find it awkward and unnatural. It should be encouraged though the more mature separated couples I see who make it work well do so by working together as a separated couple for the children rather than fighting and that is the second best outcome, behind the Walton’s, Disney princess happily married scenario.

          • JamesB says:

            That’s if you remember the Waltons? It was a while ago.

            you seem less anti-male than the usual man hating feminists promoting walking out on men, which to be honest quite a few men aren’t wonderful, as neither are women and we probably could do with more relationship classes at school and the like.

            (*Comment moderated – James, please see point four in our moderation policy here).

          • JamesB says:

            She seems to have an agenda. Perhaps she’s a lawyer, or runs a women’s refuge or all of those or not. I just think it would be interesting to hear her background and point of view and what flag she is flying and we get the incomplete picture. Same with John, they talk as an expert but don’t say and are less than forthcoming from the experience and feelings they have.

            I sincerely ask her, please can you expand and advise on that in full? I did half ask in my original reply to your post, I am very interested in the detail of the position of where Helen is coming from on this.
            (*Comment moderated)

          • Cameron Paterson says:

            James, we don’t normally discuss moderation decisions but since you have been posting on this site for a number of years now, we’ll make a one-off exception:

            *It was not the specific term you used that led to your comment being moderated but the fact that you were asking an inherently very personal question which she may not wish to discuss on a public forum and which could easily have been seen as disrespectful or intrusive, whatever your intentions may have been. It is important that we maintain a relatively civil atmosphere in our comments sections.
            *Your earlier comment about the Cafcass officer was moderated because anonymity is strictly enforced in cases involving children.
            *Freedom of speech means freedom from prosecution for speaking your mind, within the existing confines of the law. It does not mean you have the right to say whatever you like on someone else’s website.
            I hope that clarifies things

          • JamesB says:

            Your description of freedom of speech made me lol. Free as long as you agree? Freedom of speech only exists where people are free to disagree and you are eroding it with your constant moderation. Tony Blair and David Cameron speak has been proved not so worthwhile so your spin doesn’t make much sense. If Trump can tweet Nazis stuff then perhaps he didn’t get the memo either, like the 17.2million plus others you also try to shout out etc.

          • JamesB says:

            I probably was a bit insensitive. Women do need looking after and if she does that fine. So do men need looking after. What I have problem in is people telling women they are oppressed when they are not. That’s what does my head in. I find it confusing on if she is one of them or someone who is helping. My mother needed help to get from my father and I wish she had had somewhere to go other than the next chap she went to. It’s the hijacking of legitimate concerns by people with agendas I have an issue with. Like men haters hijacking feminism and political correctness. It’s political correctness gone mad.

          • JamesB says:

            If she really does support women by giving them additional options other than stay and hate men or leave and hate men. I am also for proper discussions rather than shallow spin.

          • JamesB says:

            Like lawyers over politicians running the law and debate on divorce to make money out of it. That bugs me also. Normal people other than extremists should make policy on all sides.

          • Helna says:

            I don’t ‘hate’ decent men. I know quite a few, including my brother and my son, and I don’t think the women you perceive to be ‘man haters’ are often that, they are just fed up with the continued vcitim blaming thats been going on for centuries. Feminists? Does that mean women should lose the vote and go back to having no rights to their property or children?
            As mothers we have no rights in family courts. Any evidence is ignored or dismissed as ‘overreacting’ or hostile in some way. Children are not heard at all. Its now become like living through a war. You know your children are going to be hurt, and you have to accept that and teach them to cope. Thats if you’re lucky enough to not lose residence. I am one of the many who lost residence, my children were forced to live with their abuser and are now damaged for the rest of their lives. My youngest is now being estranged (alienated..) from me through fear. Stockholmed and dissociated, gone from being carefree and happy to wary and afraid. The standard approach towards abuse victims is to assume they are liars and then go on to prove that rather than the obvious which that abuse is real and common. Very few people who talk about abuse actually want to and false allegations are rare especially in children. The system needs proper experts in domestic abuse and child abuse, not the phoney experts with no approved quailifaction in PA..who are making huge amounts of money in setting up the trap of PAS and abusing children with their brainwashing techniques. Many judges are old and have old school attitudes, and frankly are an embarrassment to the judiciary. The comments some come out with are unbelievable. If the public knew what was happening behind those closed doors there would be a huge outcry. The average person has common sense and a conscience, which seems to be lacking within many of the court ‘profession’. Thankfully a few are beginning see whats happening and are contacting us with offers of help, and some academics and psychologists are expressing interest in doing research on the terrible failures to protect children, so we can only hope there are significant changes before more are sentenced to lives of misery, or killed.

          • Cameron Paterson says:

            Do you use social media James? Facebook, Twitter etc? (Almost) all regularly moderate or remove posts altogether when users don’t follow their rules and they can do because they are privately-owned platforms

          • JamesB says:

            Thanks for that, you tried and nearly made a point. Both of the places you mentioned have been criticised for not censoring. Yes I use facebook.

            Its an interesting subject. Although I must get on. Like, I have a gay (married) couple who are friends of mine who I told I voted Brexit recently. They were most surprised and said, blimey you are the first person weve spoken to on the matter who has admitted to that. They then said how they needed less shallow friends.

            Personally, I think the internet is refreshing and a good thing, although my children are warned off social media by teachers who say it makes people depressed. Freedom of the press is a good thing.

            Its the old thing, saying, I may disagree with what you say but I will fight to the death your right to say it, freedom of speech is freedom to be offended. Like listening to BBC comedy slagging off Brexit all the time. I think your argument began to look weak when you mentioned Twitter and almost. Still, pedophiles for example shouldn’t be given forum for their vile crap and I think even twitter censors that and other things. When I worked in a prison once I would not go into deal with those people, certain things are sacred, like children. But, I do think someones sexual orientation and family background, marriage status how many children, how many who don’t live with them is relevant to their position on family law.

            I joined twitter years ago and am following Lennox Lewis, haven’t signed in for years. I have emailed my MP though. I think Paul Apreda probably has it right though in that its difficult to do things as an individual and its better to be an activist in a group. Im a bit Groucho Marx on that though and haven’t fitted in anywhere much, apart from in football teams and other non political places.

            I do hope the internet will enable politicians to represent their people more. Would I vote for Trump if I was in America? I wouldn’t vote Hillary given her pro feminazi views. I’d probably vote Michelle Obama (seriously) if you like the nice stuff in people 😉 x.

          • JamesB says:

            Just occurred to me the role models I gave were black. I’m not black. I’m white. I quite like white and asian people too. Boris Johnson I quite like, also Kier Stamma and David Blunkett spring to mind. Margaret Beckett also. Mushy Diane, Goldie something for the Israelis and Jews. I do resent being forced to show my liberal beliefs to make a point though. Like have to say how much I love gays before I can criticise a gay person or ask if they are gay. Its relevant and trying to have a nice debate is something for children, otherwise the likes of Cossack Putin rides in and chops our heads off. First thing for government is defence, and ignoring difficult subjects is not the way forward and you need to be careful with that, although I admit I could be less insensitive. Family law is a sensitive subject though and peoples backgrounds are relevant. I am beginning to repeat myself so will leave it there for now. Regards.

          • JamesB says:

            Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan. Sorry for the earlier typos, I was rushing. I study and read a lot and resent people who’s views are not politically correct being talked down on also. People who voted Brexit weren’t stupid, the French, while they believe they are the best at and invented sex, were stitching us up and the level playing field wasn’t and isn’t level as all Europe learn English and come here where problems in their home countries. Etc. I could go on but I think I have enough for now. Regards.

          • JamesB says:

            The point you tried to make, I accept you were rushing we both were.

            The law I think is… As long as it doesn’t incite racial hated or put the security of the country at risk you are allowed to say it.

            Which means, its a question of how sterile do you want your website? Its a balancing act I must admit, too sterile and people don’t read and too insulting and people don’t read. People at Twitter and Facebook tend to (probably rightly) lean to include people like me, and websites like yours tend to (wrongly) exclude or censor people like me.

            I understand why teachers are pushing pupils to spend less time on the net and relate to each other. Its like driving, people drive aggressively like Arnie as feel invincible and swear and curse how they would not to other road users face to face. Same with the internet. I accept I should be less insensitive, but asking people’s motivations should not be excluded as it is relevant. I am now off for a run and other things away from social media as per teachers advice, and why, unlike Trump, I haven’t dived into twitter. Still, he’s a politician and can appeal to his voters directly rather than through the liberal metropolitan educated elite media. I would prefer to see politicians meeting real people rather than twittering with them though.

            Most memorable was Gordon Brown and Gillian Duffy, doesn’t happen often, to be fair John Major had his soapbox. More of that and engagement with the masses, Trump was right about that. Graham Norton or Parkinson or TV doesn’t count, Twitter is perhaps halfway there. Perhaps I will look into it and read and not comment. I don’t want to get carried away as I have here as like a lot of people I have an addictive personality and need to do other things, less in social media and more in real society face to face.

          • JamesB says:

            My point, inexpertly stated was that it sounds like she has an axe to grind and hates men and she should clarify her position and organisation and background. Calling so many abusers without examples I found offensive. Even if it was in nice liberal lawyer speak. Thanks for the discussion, I feel I am running out of words on the subject a bit though and was rushing. Perhaps I could have been more delicate but I think you are perhaps a bit oversensitive or both.

  10. Brian says:

    Hello Peter
    You asked where my ‘knowledge and experience of the alienation phenomenon came from when a former Cafcass employee. Well, in my day there was a bit more individual autonomy and time to think/read than now. In terms of training, I started with a BA degree in social work and the standard Certificate in Social Work. During my time with Cafcass (left 9 years ago) I did loads of ‘mandatory’ training to do with case law, psychology and practice skills, though don’t remember any focussing specifically on ‘parental alienation’. Cafcass allowed me time off to qualify as a mediator with the Institute of Family Therapy & to do an MSc in psychology on conflict and conflict resolution (the fees I paid myself). As a manager my role involved networking a lot with researchers and represented Cafcass on several multi-disciplinary groups which included fathers and mothers organisations, FLA, NSPCC, academics etc then was later involved in providing training on high conflict and intractable family cases to Cafcass staff. Training aside, I chiefly learnt on the job over 30 years of working with families and of course working alongside lawyers, doctors, psychologists and others. In that scenario it was impossible not to be aware of the phenomenon, indicators for it, and the various arguments & positions surrounding it. In my experience it’s complex – not at all black & white, but on a spectrum from unintentional and mild, to deliberate and severe with very damaging results. It can be entangled with issues of domestic violence, substance abuse and mutually antagonistic parents. There are clear cases that stand out and are blindingly obvious, but those numbers are in the minority. As far as I’m aware there’s no reliable data on the extent & frequency of deliberate alienation in cases. I’ve read recently that in some American research it’s said to be in about 1% of cases. I find it difficult to believe prevalence is so low in USA. Cafcass claims it’s present in a larger number of cases than thought previously and I’ve seen an estimate of up to 17% of intractable cases in the UK. My experience is that occurrence isn’t rare, but neither is it as frequent as some would claim. I was surprised to hear Anthony Douglas say at a recent meeting with FNF and others, that some Cafcass practitioners don’t believe in PA. In my day it was generally accepted, though the term ‘implacable hostility’ was preferred. Wall J said in 2004 that ‘parental alienation is a well-recognised phenomenon’ (re O [2004] 1 FLR 1258). That judgement was circulated to practitioners & that was the position in Cafcass. Professionals in any organisation can range from highly skilled to incompetent & as with other organisations, Cafcass has its balances and checks against this. I’ve no interest at all in defending Cafcass, but do think overall that its practitioners are more skilled than some in fathers and mothers groups would have us believe. Cafcass is in the middle of all these perspectives and accusations, trying to do its best to assist children with increasingly limited resources.
    A point you made impressed me – when you said viewing PA in terms of high conflict is simplistic & misleading, as ‘it suggests an equality of arms and equal apportionment of blame – in reality there is absolutely no equivalence whatsoever between severing contact and one parents intense feelings of frustration at being powerless to actually do anything about it.’ Virtually everything I’ve read from academics, psychologists and lawyers seem to set it within that framework. Technically I think they’re right, as conflict isn’t necessarily between equal antagonists or require equal shares of blame. BUT the term can give that impression & we need to be aware of it.

    • Peter Davies says:

      Hi Brian
      I am glad I looked back at this thread and I am delighted that you have responded. Thank you so much Brian for such a full and frank answer to my question.

      It chimes with research I have done. People like Howard and Shepherd, two pre-cafcass family court advisors, described it graphically in their book in 1987. The book also speaks of how probation officers in Leicester had developed protocols for engaging with families, where there was alienation, around that time.

      Based upon my own personal experience of Cafcass I can only relate what I saw. The workers and managers I dealt with for the most part of the proceedings were great ambassadors for their profession. Having not seen my kids for two years things did not move anywhere near quickly enough. But, the reunification worked and several years on we have rekindled a wonderful relationship. However, my early experience was dismal and had I merely accepted the report and waited until the next hearing to challenge it then I would have been effectively and cynically hung out to dry. Fortunately, there was time to complain and I did! I live in gratitude that things turned out as they did and not as they could easily have done.

      You, like the guardian I got to know, seem to have taken it largely upon yourself to expand your knowledge and keep up with developmets in the courts and research. When this happens the system functions as it should. When it does not then it creates problems. To make matters worse I think that because the views expressed by social workers in their reports are their own, and need not represent the corporate line, there will inevitably be some that base their reports and practice upon their beliefs rather than evidence. These are the group of people I think that Anthony Douglas was referring to in his presentation. It is a fundamental problem he faces and has indeed failed to address, in 13 years of tenure, if social scientists under his captaincy are guided more by feelings than facts.

      I used to dislike the term ‘implacable hostility’ but I have come to realise just how prescient it was of the judges to prefer the label. It was the reverse of a straw man argument. Instead of mischaracterising a proposition in order to make it easier to attack they recharacterised it in order to make, what they were observing with their own eyes, easier to protect from the “syndrome’ arguments and other red herrings that were around at the time.

      The under resourcing of cafcass and the family courts is hard to defend. Munby P described how, since the abolition of the death penality, severing contact between parents and their children ranks amongst the most draconian of powers available to the Uk courts. It is no less draconian when such a power is used by a parent for no good reason. I think this is a more honest portrayal of the issue of contact deprivation and its impact which is trivialised by the conflict narrative and the warring parents myths.

      Many thanks again for the reply Brian. I’m sure we will have a chance to discuss this again because the topic is excellent click bait!

  11. JamesB says:

    A link and lesson for you on the perils of censorship.

    Or Brexit in general really, perhaps the politicians should have considered the public between about 2001 and 2017 rather than their own politically correct agenda, then the correction that we have would not be as difficult. Like the Archbishop of Canterbury down on his knees discussing with euthanasia campaigners in wheelchairs rather than breezing past like a politician, massive respect to him and people like him for that approach rather than ignoring and censoring people. I really need to go now. Regards.

  12. JamesB says:

    Do I think women should lose rights to their children? What sort of a question is that? I have no rights to my children, they seem to be owned by the state and I share many of your misgivings on family court.

    I do think much abuse is made up (as my ex did, or perceived) and that makes it hard for the real victims.

    I don’t know your case, I do find it hard to be nice to my ex. I have to be nice to my ex to see OUR (not my) children.

    With re to politics, as Churchill said, democracy is a bad way of doing things, but its the least worse.

    Do I think women were not represented well by men in the past? I don’t know. If you are assuming men don’t care about women I think you are assuming wrong. That’s not to say I’m for the ball and chain traditional marriage, men and women need to be emancipated. You push women without men you alienate men, hence Emma Watson and the like calling for men to become feminists, but it seems the men hating lesbians who write the feminist definitions have monopolised it . Isn’t there a poem about who rocks the cradle rules the world. I have problem with women bringing up their children telling them men are abusers and do want more peace and love between the sexes and think 50:50 shared residence by default is the way to go. I hope things get easier for you and you can see that men aren’t all bad just as women aren’t. All the best. We men aren’t that bad just as you women aren’t.

  13. JamesB says:

    Its like possible to over complicate things and then the lawyers feed off the complexity and a mess ensues. With Gary Lineker on formulas being used as much as possible and hope he pulls a good draw for the world cup in Moscow today.

  14. JamesB says:

    Oh and men should be allowed to rock the cradle too, please don’t see that as patronising, it was not meant as such.

  15. JamesB says:

    Helna, thank you sincerely for replying, its been a pleasure discussing with you.

    • Helna says:

      I haven’t said anywhere that I think men are all the same. Its about the abusive and violent men who seem to get away with everything and are supported in family courts. Most victims can’t report because its too dangerous or they are just not believed. If any make up any false claims they are certainly not going to be taken seriously in courts. There has to be solid evidence with an impossibly high bar, meaning many dangerous fathers have unsupervised access to vulnerable children. The practice of taking children away from a resident parent is senseless and rarely works as a so called ‘cure’ even in genuine cases of PA. Its worse abuse than PA and traumatises the child, leaving long term effects they can never fully recover from.

      • Yvie says:

        I am not sure why you think abusive and violent men are supported in the family court and that victims cannot report domestic violence because it is too dangerous or they wont be believed. As I understand it, the Police have a policy of no tolerance so any victim should be able to report domestic violence without fear to the Police. I am not sure if it works in the same way for men as it does for women unfortunately, as men are also victims of domestic violence.. Also I dont think you are correct in assuming that dangerous fathers have unsupervised access to vulnerable children, as the welfare and safety of the children is the primary concern of the Family Courts, rather than the rights of one parent or the other. PA up until very recently has not been recognised by the Courts, so we don’t know whether removing a child from an alienating parents works or not. My own view is that alienation of children should be tackled at a very early stage by trained practitioners, so that the child does not need to be removed from either parent. However, there are parents who are hell-bent on destroying the relationship of the child with the other parent. That really does traumatise a child and should be a criminal offence.

        • Helna says:

          The police are often not very good at dealing with DV whatever their policies. Experience of hundreds, statistics of thousands re unsupervised contact or residence being given to abusive fathers. Courts have a presumption of contact at any cost and some children have been killed as a result. Traumatising a child by taking them from their mother who cared for them with no questions is not an answer, its just cruelty. The recent publication by the Tranparency Project shows Cafcass are now backtracking on their words in this report on PA and are shown to be in chaos, questions are being asked on the safety of children being put at risk by Cafcass and courts and the draconion approach of taking children away and brainwashing them through so called ‘therapy’. Why is it children can be forced to live with fathers when they express fear of him, then the father is allowed to turn the children against the mother, when they were supposed to be the parent most able to ‘promote contact’, and are allowed to continue the abuse the mother and children left behind, hoping to be safe at last.? Very few women could be as equally abusive against the average man due to muscle power/physical strength, unless they have a weapon.

          • Angela Ruberto says:

            Each case should be treated on its own facts but they must be investigated and provable facts. Any woman who asks me to believe that women are not currently making false claims in court, who cannot emotionally or physically abuse their kids for the purposes of alienation is not worth listening to. I havr heard and seen too many horror stories of mothers who partake in this behaviour. The number of women who have witnessed it is on the rise.

            You may have a view that therapy is brainwashing, and I’m sure to some degree it is but if you think its better to leave a child who had been incorrectly programmed/brainwashed by a parent with a personality disorder is the right way to go good for you.

            Any woman who puts woman’s rights above child protection is not part of the solution. Both domestic violence and emotional abuse of children need to be investigated properly. Domestic violence is real, parental alienation is real. The identification and treatment of one should not come at the expense of the other.

      • Mr T says:

        Not disrespect intended but you’re talking from your own, i.e. one perspective. Do some solid research on DV \ DA and you’ll soon realise it’s a bit of both. Some women are equally abusive and never get found out. Some are abused by controlling men. Some men do coping behaviours get branded abusive then get abused some more when their abuser then alienate them and have them prosecuted for trivial things.

        Men get treated very differently to women fact. I know I’ve been there and got the blood-stained t-shirt.

  16. kevin says:

    Very interesting thanks.What I would love to know is,what training or expertise do Cafcass have in Parental Alienation/psychological manipulation etc.
    I am one of the few that have proven this in the findings of facts and the psychology report yet Cafcass are still trying to be involved in a negative way and have acted very unprofessional. What qualifies them to potentially destroy a child’s mental health/life.Thanks.Kevin.

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