Child to live with father after finding that the mother had alienated her from him

Children|March 20th 2020

The case Re T (Parental Alienation) raises the fraught issue of parental alienation again.

The case Re T (Parental Alienation) is a topical case. Only this week I have written here about discussions regarding the fraught issue of ‘parental alienation’, including how the court should deal with it, and even whether it exists at all.

As mentioned in those discussions, we have recently seen cases where the court, upon finding that one parent had alienated a child against the other, took the drastic step of ordering that the child be moved to live with the ‘non-alienating’ parent. Now we have a case where, following a finding that she had alienated the child against the father, the mother actually agreed with (or at least did not oppose) the transfer of the child to the father.

The case is Re T (Parental Alienation), a decision of His Honour Judge Raeside in the High Court.

The case Re T (Parental Alienation) concerned a five-year-old girl. Her parents were married in 2012 and she was born in 2014. Her parents’ relationship broke down shortly after she was born, and they separated in the following year. She remained living with her mother.

As Judge Raeside explains, the child has been the subject of legal proceedings between her parents for almost her whole life (sadly, a statement such as this seems to occur in virtually all private law children cases I read).

In August 2015 the father commenced proceedings for contact, and a contact order was made in March 2016. The contact was fraught with difficulties, and in December 2016 the Local Authority placed the child on the Child Protection Plan on the category of emotional abuse, due to the relationship difficulties between the parents.

The father took the matter back to the court in July 2017, and in September one successful contact visit was arranged. However, the mother would not make the child available for further sessions.

In October 2017 the social worker assigned to the case recommended a psychological assessment of the parents (I will come back to this in a moment).

Emotional harm

There was little progress in the case throughout 2018, and the father made an application for an order that the child should live with him. He argued that the mother had shown herself unable or unwilling to promote his relationship with the child.

He was supported by the child psychologist, the social worker and another expert involved in the case, all of whom felt that the child was suffering harm by being denied a relationship with him, and by the mother portraying him in a negative light.

The mother initially opposed the father’s application. However, when it came to the hearing last December she changed her position. Faced with the evidence against her, she decided not to oppose the application.

The matter, therefore, proceeded uncontested. Judge Raeside made the following agreed findings:

1. That the child’s relationship with the father had not been consistently promoted by the mother.

2. That the mother was not in a position to promote a positive relationship between the child and the father

3. That the mother had alienated the child from her father.

Judge Raeside also made further findings, including that the child had suffered emotional harm as a result of her mother denying her a positive paternal relationship, that the mother had provided the child with an extremely negative picture of her father, and that the mother continued to minimise the role of the father in the child’s life.

He also found that the father was better able to promote a relationship between the child and her mother than the mother could promote a relationship between the child and her father.

Accordingly, he found that the child’s welfare was best met by a transfer of care to her father, and an order was made in those terms.

If you wish to read the full judgment on the case Re T (Parental Alienation) you can find it here.

Oh, and before I go I should mention the annexes to the judgment, contained in a PDF file that you can find via a link at the end of the judgment. The annexes comprise a chronology of the various orders made in the case, going back to 2016, and a note setting out the important authorities in relation to parental alienation. I don’t recall having previously seen a schedule such as this linked from a judgment, but I very much approve.

Get in touch

If you are affected by the issues raised by the case Re T (Parental Alienation) or would like any advice on child law, you can find further articles here or please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist children lawyers here.

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.

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