COVID-19 and Parental Alienation – What can you do?

14th December 2020 2:17 pm Comments Off on COVID-19 and Parental Alienation – What can you do?

What is parental alienation?

While there is no single definition, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) recognise parental alienation as when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent”. It is one of a number of reasons why a child may reject or resist spending time with one parent once parents have separated.

Cases involving true parental alienation are relatively few, however, when they do arise, they are complex, requiring very careful assessment and decision-making, because the impact of any final decision made by the courts can be life-changing for the parent and child subject to the alienating behaviour.

COVID-19 and parental alienation

The COVID-19 restrictions have allowed for more parental alienation cases to arise. Some separated parents are being prevented by the other parent from spending time with their children on the basis that it is not safe for children to move between households during the COVID-19 pandemic, or due to the misunderstanding of Government lockdown restrictions such that children of separated parents are not allowed to move between parental households in the usual way (this is not the case).

What can you do?

If a Child Arrangements Order is in place, regulating with whom your child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact, or when your child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person, but this is being manipulated to prevent you from seeing your child, you can contact our specialist family solicitors on 01628 631051 or email family@colemans.co.uk to make an appointment.

We may simply need to write to the other parent to remind them of their obligations under the Order and to explain how the usual arrangements can take place safely and in accordance with Government guidance.

If, however, we believe there to be parental alienation, we may need to seek the Court’s opinion as to whether this is the case. When a child is refusing to see a non-resident parent, professional psychologists or psychiatrists can be engaged to establish the root of that refusal. This may include appropriate justified rejection (domestic abuse or other harmful parenting), affinity or alignment with the resident parent, attachment to the resident parent, harmful conflict between the parents, or that the behaviour of the resident parent has consciously or subconsciously “alienated” the child from the non-resident parent.

If parental alienation is found, the Court can make an Order for contact, take steps to enforce the Order, and, as a last resort, make an Order that the child lives with the non-resident or “alienated” parent. It may also be necessary for the whole family, the parents, or the child to have therapy with psychologists or psychiatrists.

In the meantime, children should maintain a relationship with both of their parents after separation, where it is safe to do so. The President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice has said that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, “Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.”

If, however, after both parents have sensibly assessed the circumstances, it is agreed that a child will not move between homes during the whole or part of the pandemic, arrangements should be made for children to speak to their non-resident parent via video or telephone calls.


Categorised in: Family Law

This post was written by Colemans Solicitors LLP

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