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The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) has launched a new pilot programme to provide support to those who are victims of “parental alienation.” Cafcass views “parental alienation” as the process of one parent exerting influence over a child in order to turn that child against the other parent.

Parents naturally have a strong influence over their children, and parental alienation hinges on the misuse of this influence.

It occurs when one parent influences their child's or children's view of the other parent. Children are encouraged to view the other parent more negatively, and perhaps even led to believe that the parent in question no longer loves them or that the breakup represents the other parent abandoning them. Parental alienation may be accomplished by saying negative things about the other parent to the child, or by limiting the amount of communication between the other parent and the child. It is therefore often easier for the parent with whom the child normally resides to alienate the other parent, though the process can happen the opposite way around.

This practice is becoming more and more common among families going through separation and divorce. As such, Cafcass has launched the new “Parents in Dispute” pilot scheme, a government-funded programme which aims to encourage parents to better handle family breakdowns. It is designed to educate parents about the ways in which their behaviour can affect their children and make what is already a difficult time harder for them, and in how they can promote and maintain a more positive environment during and after parental separation.

It is believed that parental alienation occurs in somewhere between 11%-15% of all cases of divorce that involve children.

It is becoming more common, and is increasingly being seen and recognised by the UK's judiciary. One judge said, in her summary of such a case, “I regard parental manipulation of children, of which I distressingly see an enormous amount, as exceptionally harmful.

While the practice of parental alienation is becoming more and more widespread, there are still relatively few legal professionals who specifically deal with this issue. This has led to concerns that cases of parental alienation and manipulation could be going unrecognised, with judges and social workers lacking the required training to consistently pick up on or deal with these kinds of situations. Even where legal professionals do have the proper training to tackle the issue, their services can be costly on account of the level of action that needs to be taken in order to confidently conclude that parental alienation is taking place. For example, rigorous psychological assessments may be required. With the costs reaching as much as £50,000, and legal aid having suffered a series of cuts, many parents may simply be unable to afford the costs.

Specialist opinions do offer one brighter note. They widely agree that children are able to pick up and recover relationships with formerly alienated parents both quickly and powerfully once they have been reunited.

Kerry Smith is the Head of Family Law at K J Smith Solicitors. For more information, please visit: 

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  • Comment Link Michelle Heer Wednesday, 07 December 2016 22:01 posted by Michelle Heer

    Where is the help? I have tried the court system, I have spent all my savings trying to get contact reinstated with my 14 year old daughter after ten long months and the judge and cafcass did not recognise PA!!! My husband told enough lies in his statements and created enough smoke and mirrors for the judge to take the view that we were both as bad as each other! So because he tells great lies, he got away with it! The judge wouldn't let my barrister cross examine as it would be more destructive, so I couldn't prove his lies. Where do I go now? EHH are useless they have been manipulated by him, as they are not skilled enough in this. I am completely isolated from my daughter, he shares no information about her and she has an eating disorder! The damage to her is evident, but again this isn't considered in the court!!! There is no one else to help me, the judge strongly recommends we go to family therapy, but this is costly, plus I need to find a specialist in narcisstic behaviour and PA and I need him and my daughter to attend! Sounds like a long shot to me, he will sabotage it as it isn't in his interests for us to attend family therapy, as he doesn't want mother and daughter to be reconciled and he has never been willing to discuss his behaviour.

  • Comment Link SharP Friday, 16 September 2016 19:02 posted by SharP

    Narcissists love love love this. If they don't have a relationship with their child it couldn't possibly be because they behave in such away that discourages the relationship. By all means it can't be a narcissists fault. Then he decides to blame mom for it. Why not? He gets an audience in court where everyone gets to listen to his every lie and accusation about mom. But no one holds him to the truth. He is a not so good father because of his lack of empathy. He can't face the fact that his relationships (all of them) deteriorate over time because he is unable to connect in a real way. And children aren't mature enough to see through dad's games and manipulation. And the court has been dragged into. Costing everyone time and money. And in the end there will always be cognative dissonce because a narc lives in a false world where he is the victim of parent alienation. Do the courts really want to go here?!?!?

  • Comment Link Cynthia Sunday, 11 September 2016 16:28 posted by Cynthia

    Please help me....

  • Comment Link Eric Rosenbaum Friday, 09 September 2016 01:44 posted by Eric Rosenbaum

    I am dealing with my ex-wife violating the court order by not picking up the child and causing me to drop her off to her. I made her come and get her one time and that was the last time I seen or even talked to my daughter. I went two and a half weeks without getting an answer over the phone. When my ex finally did answer the phone she said no about me getting her and/or talking with her. She also told me that she was going to block my number again after we got off the phone. I have again tried to call each number once a day and got no where. On 9/08/2016 I called my ex answered and denied my communication with my daughter with no reason beside she says no to me talking to her. I need help and I need it desperately. PLEASE HELP ME. I have no money for a lawyer and need help. My ex has texted me telling me that our daughter is the happiest when she is with me.

  • Comment Link basil0707 Tuesday, 06 September 2016 19:04 posted by basil0707

    Do they have anything like this in the U.S.?

    To me PAS is almost short of criminal in what it does to children and families. By the time anybody has figured out what happened, it is so difficult to repair the damage.

    It would be highly beneficial if there was a legal entity with some enforcement authority to bring this issue to light and make the "Alienator" accountable for their actions.

  • Comment Link Steven Monk-Dalton Tuesday, 06 September 2016 10:31 posted by Steven Monk-Dalton

    Thank goodness for a positive step towards addressing parental alienation. This behaviour is most certainly an abuse that is often overlooked or ignored in the court process. Parental Alienation can involve some of the most heinous "tactics" that can cause long term emotional harm to the affected parent, the family AND the child(ren). These tactics can range from negative comments, frustrating contact to the most disgraceful false allegations to achieve the objective of cutting the parent and family from the child's life.
    I hope that the support that is provided will address ALL people affected... This means parents, families AND the children as well as counselling for the parent who is conducting themselves in this manner.
    I would also like to see sanctions made against solicitors and barristers that knowingly facilitate or actively encourage these behaviours