Losing Custody through Parental Alienation

In Britain, parents can now lose child custody, and even be denied contact with their children, if they attempt to poison their children against the other parent under a new pilot program to stop parental alienation. What is parental alienation and why should you lose custody over it?

According to the London Independent, the groundbreaking initiative, being tried by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), is designed to tackle the problem officially known as “parental alienation” where one parent turns a child against the other so they do not want to see them.

In the UK, Cafcass represents children in family court cases to make sure that children’s voices are heard and decisions are taken in their best interests.

Cafcass is independent of the courts, social services, education and health authorities. It was established in 2001 to bring together the family court services previously provided by the Family Court Welfare Service, the Guardian ad Litem Service and the Children’s Division of the Official Solicitor’s Office. It is accountable to the Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice.

Cafcass – which has been criticized for being slow to tackle the issue – said the problem is widespread and occurs in a substantial number of the 125,000 cases it deals with annually.

Florida Child Custody Modification

I’ve written about interstate and international child custody issues before, and how to modify child custody provisions.

The custody provision in a final judgment can be materially modified only if:

  • there are facts concerning the welfare of the child that the court did not know at the time the decree was entered, or
  • there has been a change in circumstances shown to have arisen since the decree.

To satisfy the substantial change of circumstances test, the party seeking modification must show both that the circumstances have substantially, materially changed since the original custody determination and that the child’s best interests justify changing custody.

Parental Alienation

Parental Alienation is a mental condition in which a child – usually one whose parents are engaged in a high-conflict separation or divorce – allies strongly with one parent and refuses without good cause to have a relationship with the other parent.

This process takes place when a parent or caregiver encourages the child’s rejection of the other parent.

Parental alienation is driven by the false belief that the rejected parent is evil, dangerous, or not worthy of affection.

When the phenomenon is properly recognized, the condition is preventable and treatable in many instances.

Parental alienation, if proved by competent, substantial evidence, can justify a request for a modification of a time-sharing provision in a final judgment.

Parental Alienation in Britain

Cafcass’s, Sarah Parsons, said: “We are increasingly recognizing that parental alienation is a feature of many of our cases and have realized that it’s absolutely vital that we take the initiative.

Our new approach is groundbreaking.

From spring 2018, Cafcass caseworkers will be issued with guidelines known as the “high conflict pathway” setting out steps social workers should take when dealing with suspected cases of parental alienation.

The pathway will spell out at what stage children should be removed from the parent responsible for the alienation and placed with the “target parent”.

A father who was the victim of alienation, speaking anonymously, told the Guardian:

I’ve lived through and witnessed the inexorable alienation of my older daughter over the past five years, which has culminated in complete loss of contact.

The Independent’s article on alienation is here.