Within the family law field there has been much greater recent recognition of "Parental Alienation" with a debate about how this can be avoided. Parental alienation is where one parent uses a child or children to get back at their ex-partner and are unable to split away the needs of children from their own feelings. Parents often refer to this as the other parent "turning" the child against them.
Parental alienation is sadly very common in situations where there is a relationship breakdown. Usually it can be at a very low level but important nonetheless. Many parents are able to reach an amicable agreement after they split up concerning the care of their children but equally many are not. Some experience short-term issues whilst new arrangements and routines are established but it is frighteningly too common for one parent to accuse the other of using the children as a "pawn". One of the difficulties is that both parents may have their own "agenda".
Thankfully most parents are able to reach an agreement. It may not be completely amicable but a workable agreement that both parents may be equally unhappy with can sometimes be a good compromise. Whilst it is not ideal this for many people is the best they can achieve. There has been a lot of focus on shared parenting but in the real world this can be rare and it can often be used as one parent looking for equal parenting, i.e. half of the child's time ignoring what the actual needs of a child may be.
If parents cannot agree on the arrangements for the children the first port of call is mediation. For those financially eligible legal aid is still available for this but mediation is not a solution for all problems. The take up and success of mediation is far greater in dealing with children arrangements than finances (although mediators will suggest that it can be equally beneficial to all aspects of a relationship breakdown). If mediation is not successful and parents cannot reach agreement direct they can be left with a very unsatisfactory situation or expensive Court Proceedings.
Over time parental alienation can almost be forgotten by the parents when they form new relationships and they move on in their lives. For children that is much more difficult as the damage that is done at the time of a marriage breakdown or relationship split can cause long-term effects. Faced with a Court Application a Judge has a very difficult situation in having to make decisions based upon the evidence of the parents and the expert input of a Cafcass Officer or Social Worker but changing people's attitudes is much more difficult. Children can be seen by parents as possessions to be argued over along with the cutlery or television set but without long-term thought about the damage that is caused to children. Parental alienation is now widely recognised around the world. In this country it is has only recently been given the title whereas family lawyers have sadly often seen this type of behaviour from parents whether acting for Mums or Dads. It has now been suggested that parental alienation should be treated as a form of child abuse and made a criminal offence as it is elsewhere in the world. Punishing the behaviour does not help a child and the inability of the parents to put their own child's feelings and needs above their own is a much more fundamental problem.
To find out more or discuss your individual requirements in further detail, our dedicated Family Law Solicitors will be delighted to help. Contact us today on 01603 693500 or email us using the 'Make an enquiry' form. Appointments available at our Norwich, North Walsham, Brooke and Sheringham offices.