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Parental Alienation Recognised by World Health Organisation

Parental Alienation Recognised by World Health Organisation (WHO)

And Other PA Updates

Positive news - The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced on 25th May 2019 that they have accepted Parental Alienation within its classification of health conditions. It does not come into effect until 1st January 2022, presumably to give nation states and researchers time to catch-up. It is, however, an important marker that the effect on children of alienating behaviours is a major health problem that needs to be more widely recognised and addressed. 

The success in getting parental alienation recognised in this way came despite an co-ordinated attempt by various groups, including a number of women's rights activists, to undermine this including a letter from 'experts' with no experience of dealing with parental alienation sending WHO a memo calling on them to remove the term 'parental alienation' and related concepts. UK expert in parental alienation, Karen Woodall, has written a compelling blog on this and we thank her and others in the field for pressing for this outcome.

You may also find the broadcast by Philippa Parry on BBC Radio 4 on 12th May 2019 parental alienation of interest. 

When Parents Split

As mentioned above, the BBC Radio 4 broadcast 'When Parents Split' was an intelligent discussion on Parental Alienation, broadcast on 12th May 2019. The programme was presented by psychotherapist Philippa Perry and featured compelling contributions from Francesca Wiley QC, PA experts Dr Amy J Baker and Karen Woodall, Sarah Parsons from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) as well as powerful testimony from parents talking about their horrendous experiences and by a young man who had been alienated. All separating parents and those affected should listen to this and share it widely to help raise awareness of this shockingly common phenomenon.

Government Respond to Parental Alienation Petition

The petition to criminalise parental alienation has exceeded the 10,000 signatures needed to trigger a Government response. It requires 100,000 signatures for Parliament to hold a debate. The response is predictably inadequate and and reflects the fact that Cafcass condinue to lack an adequate plan for dealing with such situation. The response concludes by saying 'Exceptionally, in cases of persistent parental alienation over time, the family court may decide that the child’s longer-term welfare is best served by a transfer of the child’s residence from one parent to the other.'. The problem with this response is that they consider this something that they do in 'exceptional' cases and usually very much too late. The key is to tackle the problem early. Please continue to share the petition so the signatories continue to grow (they stand at just under 13,000). Also ask your member of parliament to get in touch with the minister, Paul Maynard MP, calling on him to investigate how Cafcass deal with these cases and call on them to identify alienation very early in proceedings, to develop more sophisticated methods of establishing the ASCERTAINABLE (as opposed to expressed) wishes and feelings of children, and to make plans for early intervention, including consideration of reversal of residence.  It is essential that these steps must be taken BEFORE the child is totally enmeshed with the wishes and feelings of a hostile main carer.

When Parental Alienation Crosses into the Criminal Jurisdiction

June Venters QC has written a helpful article for Family Law Week on Parental Alienation with thoughtful comments on whether alienating behaviour should be a criminal offence, arguing that to some extent it already is. She also emphasises the need for 'direct contact to be re-instated quickly, following a finding of parental alienation' noting that it seldom is 'with so many Cafcass officers and social workers advocating for the gradual resumption of direct contact, beginning with indirect contact' which, as our earlier article points out, very rarely has the desired effect.

Judge ordered that an 8 year old boy was to live with the father because of the mother's 'hateful feelings' for the father

We thought it would be helpful to provide a reminder/update of this case which was publisehd last month following a two day hearing in March. The case, involving parental alienation that started in 2012, finally led to the eight year old boy living with his dad last year when professionals and the court agreed that the manipulation and hate would otherwise not end. The judgement of Mr Justice Williams in the High Court is published after the mother lost her attempt last week to appeal the judgement of the court in yet another attempt to exclude the father from their son's life. The mother had a QC to represent her while the father was a litigant in person. The story was reported in The Guardian and Metro which appeared to take up the strory from the perspective of the maternal family. It seems likely that, having lost the appeal, continuing the fight of an individual case through the press is not likely to help the mother and especially not the child.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, rules against mother in a case (Re:L) that falls short of being "intractable hostility" or "parental alienation"

In another recently published judgement, also involving an 8 year-old boy, HHJ Tolson QC found that the mother had put the child up to making allegations of abuse to the police, and ordered that the child should move from London to Northern Ireleand to live with the father. Although it is stated that the case fell short of being 'parental alienation', in reading the judgement, it is difficult to conclude otherwise especially as the mother had plenty of opportunities to comply with earlier orders. The judgement appears to be important as a 2010 one considered a change of resident to be a 'weapon of last resort'. This new judgement in the appeal hearing heard by Lord Justice McFarlane says (at para 59) states: "there is, in my view, a danger in placing too much emphasis on the phrase “last resort” used by Thorpe LJ and Coleridge J in Re: A.". This likely henceforth to be an important piece of new case law. It may also be important in that it states that the child's guardian held back from asking the eight year old child where he wanted to live as doing so could cause him harm. The case was also reported on in the Stowe Family Law Blog. FNF will be contacting Cafcass about the implications of this case in the way they handle similar scenarios.
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FNF HSSF Kite Mark Award

Families Need Fathers has been awarded the Help and Support for Separated Families Kite Mark which is a new UK government accreditation scheme for organisations offering help to separated families.

Families Need Fathers work with a range of family law professionals, including Family Law Panel

 

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