The impact of parental alienation following separation has attracted growing interest and concern in family law proceedings in recent years. Parental alienation is when a child becomes hostile towards one parent as a result of psychological and emotional manipulation by the other parent. This can occur when parents separate and one parent feels angry and hostile towards the other parent. If a child is exposed to these negative feelings they may in time start to develop hostility towards the other parent and reject spending time with them.
In the case of Re H, the father applied for a Child Arrangements Order to transfer the child’s residence from the mother to him. The parents separated in 2007. The child (aged 12) lived with his mother and had regular good quality contact with his father. In March 2018 contact stopped and the child’s communications with his father became hostile.
At the hearing, evidence was given by an expert in the field of parental alienation. The expert concluded that the mother had alienated the child from his father based on her own feelings towards the father and it is likely that the child would not enjoy a relationship with his father if he were to remain in his mother’s care.
It was found that in order to ensure the welfare interests of the child were properly met, residence of the child must be transferred from the mother to the father. The Court considered the potential short term trauma and stress the child may suffer due to a change of residence however this was outweighed by the “long term benefits of having a loving and beneficial relationship with both of his parents”.
The decision highlights that the Court acknowledges the damaging effects of parental alienation and the importance of maintaining positive relationships with both parents post separation when considering applications for Child Arrangement Orders. It also highlights that the Family Court is not averse to changing a child’s living arrangements in cases where their welfare demands it.
If you believe that you are experiencing alienation from your children, or you have been accused of alienating your children against their other parent, please contact Andrew Smith in our York office, Chris Burns and Sophie Arrowsmith in our Leeds office, and Richard Buckley in our Sheffield office.
Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.