All too often in the breakdown of a relationship, one person may have reached that decision before the other, and may have delayed dealing with any considered change in the interests of the children. When it is finally communicated to the other partner, it is often seen as a ‘bolt out of the blue’. Fear, mistrust, grief and anger follow very quickly. This in turn sets the scene for a potential ‘high-conflict’ separation and subsequent custody battle.
The existence of parental alienation is all too often present in such battles, and the conflicts that begin to unfold both in and out of the court room are an overwhelming and life altering event for all concerned.
At court a ‘best interests of the children’ standard will be applied, that at best, is incredibly vague and indeterminate. ‘Alienating behaviours’ may be quoted in social services reports however within the legal system, both in and out of the court room there is a distinct lack of understanding and appreciation of the damage done by an alienating parent. Professionals will all too often mistake alienation for estrangement. This leads to numerous misconceptions that in turn result in errors in professional decision-making. Many professionals will attribute some level of blame on to the alienated parent for having contributed to his or her rejection.
For the alienated parent the feeling of loss for children that are no longer in their lives is at times overwhelming. Some alienated parents describe the feeling being similar to that of grief when a close friend or family member dies. The alienated parent becomes an immediate stranger to the life he or she once had and quickly realises that they need for better or worse, to get to grips with their new reality. Even for the more resilient of alienated parents, trying to find the financial, emotional and supportive resources needed to manage each arising obstacle in the best interests of the children is incredibly challenging, both physically and emotionally. The guilt in engaging in other activities and hobbies that provide a healthy distraction for the alienated parent is difficult to bear and even more difficult to articulate.
International research shows us that children do not suffer long term damage when parents separate. However research does show us that children suffer short and long term difficulties when their parents remain in prolonged conflict with one another.
There are numerous arguments for co-parenting (E. Kruk, 2012):
- Co-parenting preserves children’s relationships with both parents
- Co-parenting preserves parents’ relationships with their children
- Co-parenting decreases parental conflict
- Co-parenting reflects children’s preferences and views regarding their own best interests
- Co-parenting decreases the ‘mathematising’ of time spent with each parent
- Co-parenting reduces the risk and incidence of parental alienation
In my particular case, the individual who is continuing to alienate my children against me does not believe in co-parenting. Between us, my ex-partner and I have paid in excess of £8,000 in legal fees. My ex-partner’s intention is to keep my children away from me (I have not seen them for almost a year). My intention is to co-parent, nothing more, nothing less.
To conclude, the emotional and financial costs of pursuing child contact through the courts are incredibly high. I have several more court hearings in front of me. This is the harsh reality of parental alienation and a biased and ineffective legal system.