An important debate is taking place next week with the aim of legal reform.
We have composed the following to input to that debate, which we have contributed via one of the affiliated sites.
Some excellent comments.
It is clear that parent alienation is an issue that grows and infects more families with every divorce.
It is apparent that there are links between alienation and the statistics relating to unhappiness and self-harming in children and suicide statistics relating to men within the traditional “fatherhood” range.
As awareness grows, however, we must not be diverted by the symptoms, we must strive to address the root causes and to bring about changes to family law, social services and enforcement,
I represent an organisation called Peace not PAS. (www.peacenotpas.com).
As the name suggests, we were established in order to provide support for all those affected by Parental Alienation and also promote awareness of this, leading to much needed positive social change. Our formation was, to many extents, out of desperation rather than design as our members find that they have no voice in Family Court and increasingly report signs of abuse leading to distress, depression and long-standing unhappiness as a consequence of their enforced interactions with a Family Law system that either completely ignores or seemingly undermines their relationship with their own children. Our members are extremely concerned about the medium to long term impact this will have on them, their families and their sadly estranged children.
Our Vision is:
That all children will grow up in a world where their rights and parenting are shared equally between both biological parents. In addition, children will have a fulfilling, positive, and equal relationship with both sides of their extended family, including within blended families.
We have around 6,000 followers at present and growing fast.
One of our approaches is to conduct research into the common behaviours, traits and patterns culminating in the deliberate alienation of one parent (the targeted parent) from their own biological children with whom they had hitherto enjoyed a loving relationship, the alienation perpetrated by the other biological parent, in the vast majority of cases the resident parent with the greatest exposure to the children. It is this exposure and time invested capable of being invested in the practice of alienation that , in our experience, provides the greatest opportunity for enacting the alienation strategy.
Our research clearly illustrates that, while cases differ in timing and sequencing, the tactics employed by the alienating parent are remarkably similar, leading us to believe that they are somehow shared by way of informal networking online or within peer groups, or, more controversially, may be coached by mentors including unscrupulous members of the legal profession.
Such are the similarities between cases, the patterns are clear, even suggesting a tried and tested formula summarised as follows:
1. The instigator seeks separation from their partner and in order to secure this implies, very early on, some form of abuse (physical or emotional). In the vast majority of cases this has not and can not be verified by a third party (eg the CPS), the implication/allegation suffices for the purposes detailed.
2. The targeted parent is separated from the family home either voluntarily or in extreme cases on the back of the allegations via third parties)
3. This then establishes control over the home and the children creating an RP (resident parent) and NRP (non-resident parent) polemic.
4. Despite the fact that the family court is supposed to separate financial matters from children matters, the unscrupulous targeting parent constantly references the allegations in correspondence detailing both financial and children matters making it impossible for a judge or other third party not to sub-consciously buy into the abuser/abused narrative
5. The targeting parent perpetuates this narrative with all family support functions isolating the NRP
6. Where possible the RP uses this abuser/abused narrative to access legal aid or to sue the NRP to pay all court and legal fees where possible, also accessing family funds to do the same
7. Being “in possession” of the children and “in control” of their routines the RP furthers the alienation by unilaterally making decisions relating to schooling, medical attention, events and activities, controlling the children’s diaries.They set up an empowered/disempowered dynamic.
8. Should the NRP seek children arrangements orders, the RP only has to refer to the abuse narrative to avoid any and all mediation and negotiation and garner Cafcass sympathy. Again, there is apparently NO NEED to prove or substantiate the truth of allegations to achieve this.
9. The RP then controls the Child Arrangements on the basis of routine and stability and arguing Implacable Hostility as part of the abuse narrative.
10 If the RP is female ie the mother (as is the situation in at least 80% of cases ), this plays to a learned sexist dynamic (female nurturer/male aggressor). This may be a stereotype and out of kilter with say employment law re stereotyping etc but the weight of experience suggests that Family Courts have some way to go before presuming that men are at least as capable as carers/nurturers as women and that women are just as capable of being primary income earners.
11. Where, despite all of the above, the NRP manages to obtain an order granting him the now out-dated classic (every other weekend, half holidays etc), the RP usually attempts to insert a non-harassment clause. This effectively limits the NRP’s ability to discuss children matters and scheduling etc as it can be abused to suggest that the NRP is harassing the RP when in fact, it is far more likely the RP will be stonewalling the NRP (using silence to provoke them)
12, The current adversarial legal norm in the UK prevents the use of a single solicitor for both parties. This makes it easier to use language and approaches intended to provoke the NRP into prolonged debate. Activity = billing for the legal time so can be cultivated to that end, especially harmful if 1 party is on legal aid and the other using their own financial resources. In effect, the NRP only has a qualified and professional voice in court so long as their finances hold out.
13, Even with an order, the RP is aware that there have been no cases of enforcement of orders should the RP not comply. At first they will “bend the rules” (ref list below) but gradually over time they will use increasingly more extreme tactics to undermine the NRP and their time with the children (time = opportunity to enmesh and brainwash the children).
14. Should the NRP have to litigate in an attempt to enforce orders (or even secure something as simple as an annual calendar of shared time), they expose themselves to accusations of “abuse by excessive litigation” another extension of the ongoing abuse narrative.
15. Provided the children are thriving at school etc the court simply won’t intervene on the NRP’s behalf. In our research around 60% of the recipients stated that judges claimed that they could not force children to “do what they don’t want to do”, despite Cafcass support for the NRP etc.
What follows are just some of the tactics (there are many more) targeting parents (usually mothers), employ to control their former partners and children and dominate time to manipulate, brainwash and bully the children into dependency on them (enmeshment) and break their relationship with the NRP, who they gradually come to see as the source/trigger of discomfort in the RP and therefore a threat:
- making the other parent apply to court to see the children
- linking child arrangements with finances
- putting the children through social worker interviews for no good reason (an alien and unnerving environment for most)
- dictating the terms by which the other parent will see them
- refusing to co-draft child arrangements/shared parenting plan (Cafcass best practice)
- getting lawyers to threaten less time with the children unless other parent cooperates or using time as a bargaining tool
- refusing to discuss and agree basic needs like routines, medication, school choices, school events,parent consultation, doctors, clothing, activities
- constantly trying to change the children’s surnames
- refusing to consult the other parent about foreign holidays
- witholding the children’s passports and birth certificates
- refusing to “allow” school pickup
- refusing to share successes or inform the other parent so they can’t acknowledge
- refusing to share significant events like Christmas
- pattern of late cancellation of agreed dates and constant re-arrangements disregarding the fact the NRP has commitments
- threatening supervised contact in visitation centres
- unilaterally dictating children’s calendars
- refusing to agree forward schedule of events/dates
- refusing to communicate other than through lawyers
- criticising the other parent and partner constantly and in front of the children
- perpetuating an abuse narrative with friends, family and children
- criticising gifts, presents or clothes and other items bought by the other parent or destroying them
- undermining the other parent’s decisions and parenting
- deliberately and often literally placing the children in the centre of arguments
- discussing age inappropriate issues with children, like finances or custody
- where there’s more than one child targeting one child first not to attend then pressurising the other
- colluding with parents of children’s friends to organise events during the other parent’s time then, saying they can go without consulting them leaving it to child to resolve
- not telling the other parent about diary clashes
- arranging pickup in car parks and other alien environments
- creating conflict during pickup
- using hostile impersonal terminology to refer to the other parent’s time to imply it is less worthy eg contact or visitation or even babysitting
- making the children scared of the other parents by threatening to withdraw affection if the children show affection for them or telling lies about them
- referring to children as “best friends” and treating them like adults, a form of grooming
- refusing to facilitate time with the NRP’s extended family
- attacking and verbally abusing children for liking the other parent
- telling children they are disloyal for liking the other parent and punishing them
- linking financial discussions to child arrangements
- supervising calls or communication with the other parent/denying privacy
- managing their social media accounts and reading all messages between the child and the NRP
- criticising the other parent in front of the children’s friends and their parents when children can hear
- creating various social media identities to abuse the other parent online
- encouraging family and friends and new partners to criticise and gang up on the other parent
- forcing children to spy on the new parent’s life
- making the targeted parent leave gifts outside
- creating hostility during children’s events attended by the other parent but criticising them if they don’t/can’t attend
- threatening police intervention if they don’t get their own way, in front of the children
- perpetuating the abuse myth by telling it to anyone who will listen without the support of a single substantiated fact
- new partners behaving inappropriately with the children in front of the estranged biological parent and involving themselves in matters between the actual parents
- Ultimately, their aim is to claim that non-adherence to any Court Order is not their fault as they can’t help it if the “children won’t go” and “they won’t force them”. Despite being in contempt of court, committing perjury and abusing the children, they know that the Judge will do nothing provided the children are SEEN to be thriving.
This is by no means a complete list but illustrates just some of the alienating tactics reported by our network, daily.
We strongly believe, as other commentators have pointed out, that time is a weapon deployed by targeting parents.
The court process is too slow and enables delays that create time in which the psychological abuse happens.
The answer to this problem has to be “up stream” before the alienation pattern has had time to form and impact the children.
We believe there needs to be:
– a rebuttable presumption of 50/50 parental rights and responsibilities awarded to both biological parents
– shared parenting and a shared parenting plan should replace current child arrangements orders or form the basis for them and should be instituted within 3 months of separation
this should include mandatory consultation re schooling, welfare issues etc
– enforcement of the same needs to include re-balancing of parenting time from that 50/50 basis if either parent deliberately deviates and maliciously deviates from the same
– mediation and counselling should be mandatory in genuine cases of implacable hostility including psychological assessments to determine any underlining problems requiring support
We wish you every success during the debates.
There is little doubt that this issue is every bit as important as epoch-defining movements like women’s suffrage and the race relations acts.
Millions of people are desperate for change for the sake of their children and undoubtedly the hidden economic and social cost of the abuse is huge.