The child’s well-being
Children can get caught in the crossfire of their parents’ separation or divorce. In most cases, parents are able to put aside their own disputes and make arrangements for their children to have an ongoing and positive relationship with both parents without ever having to contact a solicitor or consider going to court. But what happens to those parents who find themselves being told that their previously loving child doesn’t want to see them and refuses to have any contact?
Children often need time to adjust to their parents’ separation; sometimes there is a reaction which can cause a temporary break in the relationship which is soon resolved when the child, with the help of both parents, realises they are very much loved and permitted to love both parents.
Occasionally a child is justified in not wanting to see a parent because of issues such as domestic abuse, neglect, alcohol or drug abuse. The child’s welfare is the paramount concern and appropriate safeguards can be put in place.
Is my child being alienated from me?
Parents who are going through a separation may find their children become hostile and don’t want to see them.
Contact our Family Law team now.
Cafcass (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) uses the term ‘parental alienation’ to describe a situation ‘when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.’
Cases of parental alienation are marked by common features which can include the following:
- a parent constantly badmouthing or belittling the other
- limiting contact
- forbidding discussion about the other parent
- creating the impression that the other parent dislikes or does not love the child.
In extreme cases, the behaviour can also include denying love and causing the child to feel the need to ‘take the side ‘of the alienating parent to obtain the love they need. The child can end up believing that the alienated parent is dangerous or undeserving and will say and do whatever it takes to keep the parent they live with happiness and to avoid rejection.
What can I do next?
If you believe you are being alienated from your child, it is vital that you seek specialist advice as soon as you can.
Court proceedings can be lengthy and the simple fact is that, the longer the situation is allowed to continue, the more emotional harm a child will suffer, and the harder it is to reinstate any relationship. This is particularly the case if your child is a teen or pre-teen or if the other parent or child is making allegations against you and the court needs to establish the truth of any allegations before making decisions.
The emotional harm caused to a child by preventing a relationship with the other parent is serious. The courts have far-reaching powers and judges are able to (and do) make orders which move children from the alienating parent into the care of their other parent.
Cafcass officers are trained to recognise cases of parental alienation and will make recommendations accordingly.
In some cases, the local authority will become involved because of the risk of harm to the child. The court has the power to make interim care orders in private law proceedings if a child has suffered, or is at risk of suffering, significant harm.
There are many proactive steps which can be taken if your child is refusing to see you; the key to success is to act strategically and quickly.