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Suspended residence order used to tackle parental alienation

Parental alienation cases in the news

Parental alienation cases continue to be in the news. I wrote here and here back in October about two such cases. Now a third has just been published, albeit that the case actually took place back in January of this year (the publication was delayed pending a final hearing).

R (Parental alienation and suspended transfer of residence) concerned an application by a father for contact with his two children, who resided with their mother, and who were then aged 11 and 10. We are told that the children have been the subject of litigation, on and off, for much of their lives (how often do we hear this?), but that they had regular contact with their father until 2017, since when problems have arisen, and the matter referred back to the court.

The father’s allegations

The crux of the case was set out in the father’s allegations, which the judge found to be made out. They included the following:

  1. That the mother had deliberately abrogated the father’s parental responsibility and/or made unilateral decisions regarding the children’s surname, health and education, without consultation or consent of the father or Court order.
  2. That the mother was an unreliable and/or false reporter and had recruited, manipulated, split and/or mislead professionals, and had not been able to follow the recommendations of professionals, over the years, as it related to the children’s need to have a relationship with their father, thereby causing them emotional harm.
  3. That the mother had alienated the children from the father as a result of having either consciously, or subconsciously, encouraged and placed emotional pressure on them to present as not wishing to have contact with the father. Further, she had overtly encouraged them to assert and believe that they did not have a good time with their father in order to further her cause to remove the father from their lives.
  4. That the mother, as a result of her behaviour, had encouraged, or permitted to develop, an ‘enmeshed relationship’ between the children and herself which had caused, and was continuing to cause, the children significant or other emotional harm.

Suspended residence order

Now, as I have mentioned here previously, one of the main ‘weapons’ (and I don’t really like to use that word) at the disposal of the court when dealing with a case in which there had been a finding of parental alienation is to transfer the residence of the children from the ‘alienating’ parent to the other parent (that occurred in the first of the cases I reported upon in October). Obviously, however, a transfer of residence may not always be possible (as was the situation in the second case I reported upon in October), and even if it is, it can be fraught with difficulty. It is therefore not a weapon to be used lightly.

As indicated by the title to this post, the solution, in this case, was to make a suspended residence order. In other words, if the mother did not comply with the court’s order for contact (which entailed the children spending equal time with each parent), then the residence order would be implemented.

And, without going into the details, it seems to have worked. As I said earlier, the judgment was handed down in January. We are told, however, in a postscript written by the judge after the final hearing in September, the following:

“The children have, since 30 January 2019 enjoyed equal time with their Father, and their Mother, as per my order. I am satisfied the suspended residence order which I made has enabled the children to rebuild their relationships with their Father and paternal families and has provided the encouragement for the Mother to work with my Order. My final Order endorsed the continuation of the children spending their time equally in the care of their Mother and their Father and I have extended the suspended residence order for a further 6 months to prioritise the welfare of these two children and maximise their opportunities of growing up with a healthy relationship with both parents.”

You can find the full judgment here.

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John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers, with his content now supporting our divorce lawyers and child custody lawyers

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  1. spinner says:

    A simple threat to remove the children from the mother’s care from the court will I would guess stop mothers alienating children from their fathers in not all but a good number of cases. What is totally shameful is that mothers have been allowed to get away with abusing their children this way this for decades with the full support of the family courts. It should be the default position if you have shared care and the mother doesn’t stick to the agreement then she gets reduced or zero contact.

    • Julia says:

      “then she gets reduced or zero contact?” Are you sure children will benefit from zero contact?
      Parents should learn how to respect each other after separation. All these orders have nothing to do with intelligent post-divorce relationship. Nobody will benefit from any order. The only possible solution is mutual understanding and concord. Any litigation is harmful. The father who is seeking to prosecute the mother and remove children from her care is not caring about children. It is all about his ego. If he really wants to be part of their children’s life, approach should be different than courts.

      • Harriet says:

        The children will not benefit from zero contact with either parent. However they will also not benefit from 100% contact with one parent where that parent is malicious and an alienator and preventing a perfectly good parent from 50% of his time with the children giving them the benefit of an upbringing with a parent who is not malicious and not putting his desire for revenge above the welfare of his children. An alienator is a dangerous parent and a negative influence in the children’s lives. Why should they get any time let alone 50%? What if the father has tried all forms of mediation, pleading emails, pleading phone calls with family, pleading phonecalls with social services, pleading phonecalls with family friends but they all step away because they don’t want to get involved, leaving the alienator to do their worst. It isn’t always a woman who alienates children, men can be highly vindictive also.

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