At time of writing I have not seen my three beautiful children for nine and a half months. Since separating, my ex and I have spent in excess of £10,000 between us on legal fees. My aim is to co-parent, my ex’s aim is to keep me away from my children.
Immediately after separation my ex began to unlawfully prevent me from having any contact with our children. It was at this point she began to exhibit alienating behaviours and subsequently cut off any direct or indirect contact with my side of the family and anyone else that was seen by her to be providing me with support. She also started and still continues to this day to make false allegations against me. There are no current safeguarding issues around me concerning contact with my children.
At this point in proceedings on the advice of my solicitor I requested help from you Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service).
You assigned a Case Manager and a report was written and submitted. The findings were that my ex was emotionally abusing our children and exhibiting alienating behaviours, both of which, you reported should stop now. A ‘robust approach’ with numerous interventions were recommended. A subsequent Court Order was made with all recommendations included.
However most of the Court Orders were breached by my ex and no meaningful interventions went ahead due to outright refusal by my ex. After several more court appearances at great cost in legal fees a second Cafcass report was written.
This report stated that although my ex was still exhibiting alienating behaviours and still inflicting emotional abuse on my children, you, Cafcass felt that to challenge contact between the children and myself would pose a risk of my children feeling ‘undervalued’.
“You believe it is in my children’s best interests to remain in an emotionally abusive environment and to remain alienated from half of their family.”
This approach is baffling if not unethical. Your own mission statement Cafcass, is to “represent children in family court cases and make sure that children’s voices are heard and decisions are taken in their best interest.” So based on your mission statement Cafcass, let me just reflect on your most recent recommendations regarding my children; you believe it is in my children’s best interests to remain in an emotionally abusive environment and to remain alienated from half of their family and to continue to be allowed to believe that half of their family has rejected them. Unbelievable Cafcass, truly unbelievable.
Voltaire once said “no problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.” As such I have become somewhat of an expert on parental alienation. Although they identify the same effects, there are several approaches to viewing the causes and application of parental alienation. There is the early Gardnerian approach of naming it as a syndrome which poses its own clinical issues and application in practice. Then there is the Childress approach of seeing it within an attached-based model. One of many current leading lights in the promotion, awareness and research of parental alienation is writer and researcher Karen Woodall. Karen’s main interest is in intergenerational trauma patterns and how they feature in cases of Parental Alienation. Furthermore parental alienation is now included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The DSM serves as a universal authority for psychiatric diagnoses. DSM-5 authors Dr. Narrow and Dr. Wamboldt state in a scientific paper in 2016 that parental alienation may be diagnosed as Child Affected by Parental Alienation Distress (V61.29) if one is talking about the child. If one is talking about a parent alienating their child parental alienation may be diagnosed as Child Psychological Abuse (V995.51).
However parental alienation is rarely acted upon by you Cafcass, despite all of the above discussion, research and evidence based approaches to combating parental alienation.
Despite this overall lack of recognition from you Cafcass, your own Chief Executive Anthony Douglas, in a recent interview with The Telegraph used the term ‘parental alienation‘ when he acknowledged that it is a form of child abuse. I pointed this comment out to you during a recent appeal I made to you. And rather astoundingly, one of your senior managers made the comment to me “well, it is very difficult to know what to do when the damage has already been done”. In addition to this rather distressing comment, I also received an even more unhelpful letter from the Justice Ministry after I sought help and advice from my local MP. The Justice Ministry with no sense of irony attempted to reassure me that “Cafcass practitioners are aware of the potential for children to be influenced by parental views and are alert to this possibility throughout the progress of a case.”
“You feel it is in their best interests to grow up through their formative years believing they have been abandoned and rejected by half their family.”
Ironically Cafcass, it was me that requested your intervention in helping my children. It was you Cafcass that rightly highlighted and documented for me the fact that my children are currently being emotionally abused by their own mother. However it is now you Cafcass that is in effect declaring that there is nothing further we should do. You claim that it is not in my children’s best interest to potentially allow them to feel ‘undervalued’ by insisting on reconciliation with me their father and everyone else on my side of the family. So just to get it clear Cafcass, you feel it is in their best interests to grow up through their formative years believing they have been abandoned and rejected by half their family.
“Parental alienation is responsible for around 80% of the most intransigent cases that come before the family courts.”
In terms of statistics Cafcass, your own Assistant Director Sarah Parsons stated last year in an article with The Guardian “parental alienation is responsible for around 80% of the most intransigent cases that come before the family courts.” From research carried out on non-custodial parents who have become disengaged from their children’s lives (Kruk, 2011), it was found that most lost contact involuntarily, many as a result of parental alienation. Scholarly consensus shows that severe alienation is abusive to children (Fidler and Bala, 2010), and it is a largely overlooked form of child abuse (Bernet et al, 2010), as the numerous frontline staff involved are often unaware of or minimize its extent.
“So Cafcass, why won’t you recommend that I have my children in my life?”
In summary, it is unfathomable to believe that it is in a child’s best interest to separate them from a loving parent. So Cafcass, why won’t you recommend that I have my children in my life? Because I just simply do not understand.
Bernet, W. et al (2010). “Parental alienation and the DSM V.” American Journal of Family Therapy, 38, 76-187
Fidler, B. and Bala, N. (2010). “Children resisting post separation contact with a parent: Concepts, controversies, and conundrums.” Family Court Review, 48 (1), 10-47.
Kruk, E. (2011). Divorced Fathers: Children’s Needs and Parental Responsibilities, Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.