Posted by Patrick Hart, Partner
Custody battles blighted by parental alienation
A working party of leading lawyers and therapists is to be created to deal with the problem of parental alienation.
The group of QCs and therapists are to draw up new guidelines for the management of the disorder, which is when one parent sets about alienating their children against the other, usually non-resident, parent.
This can lead to children cutting off all contact with one of their parents and can involve fabricated allegations against them.
It is believed that this is the case to one degree or another in the majority of custody disputes. In the UK alone, there are an estimated 60,000 children a year in one-parent families (96 per cent of which live with their mother), and as studies show that children from single-parent families are more likely to become single parents themselves, the trend of parental alienation is likely to continue.
Dr Sue Whitcombe, a Chartered Psychologist registered with the Health & Care Professions Council, carried out a study with 54 parents who identified themselves as parents who had been alienated.
She found that a sense of powerlessness was prevalent in all of the cases, with 51 of the parents having made representations to the court and coming away believing the court system was “unfair” and “unsupportive”.
There was also a high level of cases which involved false accusations – 36 participants said they had been subject to false allegations of violence against their former partner and 44 said there had been false allegations of neglect or physical, sexual or emotional abuse against their child.
Dr Whitcombe says: “My study suggests a lack of knowledge and understanding about parental alienation in the UK. This resonates with my own experience when raising the topic with professionals in psychology, education and social care.
“It is imperative that parental alienation is given a place on the research and policy agenda to ensure the safety and psychological well-being of children, their right to a relationship with both parents and the eradication of social injustice.”
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