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Parental Alienation

Children – Parental Alienation

In the case of Re S (a Child) 2015, the Father was successful in appealing the Judge’s decision to grant an adoption Order in respect of the child to the Step Father, and terminate the child’s contact with the Father.

Background
In this case the child, S, was a 6 year old boy.

The Father had not seen the child since 2008.

The Father issued an application for contact on 12 December 2010.

The child’s step father applied for an Adoption Order in response.

The Final Hearing
The First Hearing did not take place until March 2013.

The delay was partly due to an administrative error by the Court, but also due to an inability to find the Mother.

The Final Hearing did not take place until almost 5 years after the application had been issued.

At the Final Hearing in December 2014, the Judge refused the Father’s application and made an adoption Order.

The Father appealed.

Alienation
The Court of Appeal found that the Judge at first instance had barely approached the issue of parental alienation.

This was due to the social worker, who was employed by the local authority adoption agency, not mentioning alienation in her report or in oral evidence.

The fact that the Mother and step father had alienated the child from the Father was never put forward on the Father’s behalf.

The Father’s representative also did not call the Mother or step father to give oral evidence on the issue of alienation.

The Court of Appeal held that the Judge should have overridden this decision and called the parties to given evidence on the issue of alienation.

Procedural Issues
The Court of Appeal held that a number of procedural issues arose in this case.

Separate representation of the child
In this case, the Judge failed to note that the child should have been joined automatically to the adoption application.

When this was pointed out to the Judge by the Father’s solicitor, he listed a Directions Hearing but did not inform the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, or the child’s solicitor. This denied the child the right to be heard.

Oral evidence
The Judge found that the CAFCASS officer was not required to give evidence.

The Judge should have heard the evidence of the CAFCASS officer, as well as the Mother and step father.

Bias
The adoption social worker was a colleague of the Mother’s in the same children’s services department at the time the assessment was undertaken.

The Judge did not comment on this in his judgement.

Effect of this Case
This case falls in the line of intractably hostile cases, which are some of the most difficult cases to deal with.

This case is a useful guide in confirming what not to do in proceedings, but also adds to the understanding of these cases.

If you need assistance in respect of your matrimonial affairs, whether this is in respect of issues concerning a divorce and the related financial aspects, children, injunctions or cohabitation disputes, please contact our offices on 01323 727321 to arrange an appointment.

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Eastbourne, Hailsham, Polegate, Meads

Guy Brown
Guy Brown
Carolyn Richards
Carolyn Richards
Greg Saunders
Greg Saunders
Tina Ripley
Tina Ripley