There seems to be a backlash against the term Parental Alienation – ostensibly from those who find themselves in a position where such an accusation is levied. Indeed, we have even had a documentary aired where children have expressed their views on the whole matter. In this case, the children showed every classic sign of being alienated- black and white thinking or splitting whereby one parent was almost canonised and the other demonised. No nuances.
There is no doubt that the children expressed these views. However, the court is tasked with an expert reporting on their ascertainable views. They may be very different. A child may well believe a narrative and take it on board as theirs. But their lived experience may be different to that expressed. Bizarrely they may push against a parent they really love as they know they will be forgiven in the misguided view that they need to protect the parent who is mostly the one they live with.
We need experts and resources; a report from a family court advisor (Cafcass officer) may pick up on the nuances, but just as easily could miss them. This is by no means any criticism of Cafcass, or indeed Nyas, who offer a similar service. They are woefully overstretched. Change is needed. As much as allegations of abuse are now looked at early with a fact finding and so a factual matrix is established, we need a mechanism for specialist teams to assess this too.
A problem is cost and time. Often the process is prolonged. Parties can literally wait months for a court date only to be told there is no judge available; or, as has happened in two of my cases recently, for us to be told that the magistrates need to send this up to District Judge level – which incurs yet more delay.
Time in the proceedings is not a child’s friend. Views become more and more entrenched. Indeed, as a psychologist said in a recent case, “Absence does NOT make the heart grow fonder.”
Litigants in person need a lot of help to navigate the system, such as making the application for an expert. Which speciality? Which form? What even is a Part 25? It is not something I would ever suggest someone just “has a go at”. Guidance is crucial with case law properly pleaded as to the necessity of the application.
Here at Valemus we have a very strong family team. Joanna Abrahams has written extensively on the topic, as well as having cases reported and having appeared on the BBC as an expert. We are here to guide you; to include addressing likely obstacles; help you to overcome them; and, as importantly, to support you.
Find out more about Joanna and her experience here.