Channel 4’s Dispatches Commentary: Do Family Court Proceedings Tear Lives Apart?

3rd August 2021 5:24 pm Comments Off on Channel 4’s Dispatches Commentary: Do Family Court Proceedings Tear Lives Apart?

You may have seen that, last week, Channel 4’s Dispatches examined the family courts system and revealed real-life cases where the courts have ordered the police to forcibly remove children from loving homes in private law matters where there have been allegations of “parental alienation” If you did, you may be wondering whether you can trust the family courts with the safety of you and your children.

Whilst the prevalence of such cases is not currently known, Sir James Munby, who was previously the President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales, stated that there are many cases where moving one child from one parent to the other is plainly in the child’s best interests. It is important to note, however, that each case is determined by the facts and circumstances of that particular situation. First and foremost, the Courts will consider what is in the best interests of the chid, as required by section 1 of the Children Act 1989. The Court will seek to balance the short-term pain of removing a child from their home with one parent, against the long-term gain of them residing with the other parent. Of course, this is an extremely difficult assessment as it is not possible for the judiciary to predict the future and whether any long-term gain will in fact outweigh the short-term trauma of changing a child’s residence.

During the programme, legal experts placed specific emphasis on the “weaponisation” of parental alienation, where children resist or refuse spending time with a parent due to psychological manipulation by the other parent. You can read more about the concept of parental alienation in our article here.

It was revealed that parental alienation is sometimes used by one parent as a “trump card” against allegations of domestic abuse by the other parent. Whilst it is true that more training needs to be provided to the judiciary in respect of the interrelationship between parental alienation and domestic abuse, it is our experience that this is not reflective of all members of the judiciary. There are excellent judges and lay magistrates who wholly understand these concepts and who are wise to obstacles being put in the way of parents enjoying contact.

This only serves to underline the importance of instructing a Resolution solicitor, as we believe that family court proceedings should always be a last resort for separating couples. It also reinforces the importance of focusing on your children’s welfare and, where possible, channelling your energy into reaching an agreement as to where your child will live and with whom they will spend time.

There is no doubt that the family courts system is overrun and overstretched. A major overhaul is required to facilitate transparency in family court proceedings and to enable journalists to report on cases with a view to highlighting further areas for improvement. In the meantime, we urge you not to be afraid of seeking legal advice. You will be in safe hands with any one of our specialist family solicitors, as we always take an empathetic yet robust approach in even the most challenging circumstances.

For a confidential initial discussion about how we can support you and your family, please call 01628 631051 or email

Categorised in: Family Law

This post was written by Colemans Solicitors LLP

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