20 November 2017
Trial underway to prevent ‘parental alienation’ during divorce
Parents who try and turn against each other during divorce proceedings could be penalised with less contact with their children under a new process being trialled at family court.
The "groundbreaking" initiative is being piloted by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) to prevent so-called parental alienation.
Cafcass - which handles 125,000 cases each year - says there is a rise in cases of one parent 'poisoning' their child against the other, making up around 11%-15% of divorces involving children.
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, Sarah Parsons, the assistant director of Cafcass, says: "We are increasingly recognising that parental alienation is a feature in many of our cases and have realised that it's absolutely vital that we take the initiative. Our new approach is groundbreaking."
Parents will initially be given the opportunity to modify their behaviour through therapy.
However, those who don't respond will not be allowed to have their children live with them and can also see their access restricted or refused for a number of months.
Cafcass says parental alienation occurs on a scale from mild to extreme, but says all levels of the spectrum can be extremely damaging to the children involved.
Ms Parsons told the newspaper: "We have reached a much clearer position on parental alienation recently, which we want to send a very clear, strong message about.
"The current, popular view of parental alienation is highly polarised and doesn't recognise this spectrum. We want to reclaim the centre ground and develop a more nuanced, sophisticated understanding of what's going on."