New measures to tackle parental alienation
From Spring 2018 a new approach will be adopted by CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) to tackle the issue of one parent turning a child against the other following separation. This problem is known as parental alienation and is said by CAFCASS to feature in a high proportion of children cases that are dealt with by family courts.
It is being increasingly recognised as a form of psychological abuse that can have a lasting impact on a child. In other countries such as Mexico, parental alienation is a criminal offence.
CAFCASS officers appointed to assist the family court with cases will have to consider a new set of guidelines called the high conflict pathway, which will set out the steps an officer must take when dealing with cases of suspected alienation. This will include setting out at what point a child should be removed by the Court from the alienating parent and placed with the other parent.
CAFCASS has also developed a 12-week intense programme called Positive Parenting, designed to help the abusive parent put themselves in their child’s shoes and learn new strategies to break their patterns of behaviour. The parent will be expected to participate in the programme or risk their child being placed with the other parent.
The new guidelines will be trialled in Spring with 50 high-conflict families across the country. If the pilot is a success, it will be rolled out nationwide
It is hoped that the new approach will help the family court get a grip on the issue and provide CAFCASS officers, judges and other professionals working within the system with the tools needed to help children to have a meaningful relationship with both of their parents.