The impact of Parental Conflict
Separating parents can often forget how the animosity between them can impact their children, when they themselves are going through such a difficult time.
Conflict can be damaging for children – particularly when it is between the two people they love most, their parents.
In extreme cases, parental conflict may result is one parent trying to alienate a child from having a relationship with the other parent. As a result, a child may resist or refuse time with one parent.
However, it is important to remember that a child may reject spending time with a parent for a number of reasons and not just because of parental alienation. Therefore, if your child does not wish to spend time with you or their other parent, it is important to consider other factors which may have contributed to the problem before concluding there is parental alienation.
What is parental alienation?
There is no single definition of parental alienation.
However, parental alienation is recognised as occurring where a child’s resistance or hostility towards a parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent, so that the child holds a negative view of that parent.
As a result, the child may:
- Constantly and unfairly criticise the alienated parent, without being able to provide justification.
- Has negative feelings towards the alienated parent.
- Form hatred towards the alienated parent’s family (i.e. grandparents).
- Be prevented from seeing or speaking to the other parent by one parent (with the parent with care stating this is because the alienated parent is busy).
It is important for parents to understand that these high conflict situations can be potentially damaging to the children and impact the parent-child relationship.
What is the Courts approach?
The Court recognises that contact between parent and child is a fundamental element of family life, which is almost always in the interests of the child. It is terminated only in exceptional circumstances.
Where there has been parental alienation, the Court will need to carefully consider how the relationship between the child and alienated parent can be restored – although this can be difficult depending upon the extent of the alienation.
It is likely the Court will seek the assistance of CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service).
CAFCASS may be asked to prepare a report to try to ascertain the wishes and feelings of the child, but will have in mind the risk of coaching and parental manipulation.
CAFCASS may also recommend what referrals, intervention or support is needed to lessen any harmful impact on the children.
The Court with the assistance of CAFCASS will want to try to ensure children have a relationship with both parents, where it is safe and in their best interests.
Is there any support available to help manage parental conflict?
When you separate, you still continue to be parents to the children. Therefore, you need to be able to communicate and work together for the children and help them feel settled and secure.
You could try to speak to a Family Consultant to work with you and your former partner and help you with the emotional and practical issues around separation and a divorce.
A Family Consultant is a relationship therapist/coach who can help separating couples by providing both practical and emotional support.
Family Consultants can also assist you work on any issues with communication to ensure you can continue to co-parent the children effectively and monies the conflict.
Arrangements for your children
In view of the fact all of our circumstances are different, it is always important to seek advice from an experienced family law specialist to discuss your circumstances and consider the different options available to you.
At Hart Reade, all of our family law solicitors are members of Resolution, which means we are committed to resolving matters by agreement and in a non-confrontational manner.
We can provide you with a wealth of information, advice and support to assist you during what can be a difficult time.
Get in touch
It is always important to seek advice from an experienced family law specialist to discuss your circumstances and consider the different options available to you.
If you wish to speak to any of the family law team about parental alienation, or anything else, then please get in touch. Either call us on 01323 727321 to arrange a telephone or video appointment or please fill in the form below and someone will get in touch.
Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice and only provides a brief overview of certain issues. You should always speak to a legal professional to discuss your circumstances and consider your options.