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Peace Not Pas

A Parent's Story of Battling Parental Alienation

Page 12 of 14

To live a life any less than challenging

Too many of us spend far too much of our lives trying to fit in.

Some individuals are lucky enough to be born with an enviable, but healthy disregard for what others may think.

Individuals that do not need the validation, recognition or reassurance of others.

Individuals that are happy enough with themselves.

Individuals that understand that any strive for absolute perfection is flawed, unrealistic and unachievable.

Individuals that not only adapt to the unpredictability of life but embrace it.

Individuals that vrive on, learn from and grow from the chaos of life.

Individuals that understand that to turn away from the chaos of life is to not live at all.

To not push ourselves to the limit, is to limit life itself.

To live a life any less than challenging, is to not live at all.

btg dad

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Peace at Last

There are numerous behaviours one can ‘get away with’ by being a Dad. No, I do not mean childbirth, nor do I mean parental alienation.

For example I love climbing trees, however it is not deemed socially acceptable for a grown man to walk over a forest alone and then proceed to climb trees, and hang upside in joyous celebration of such an achievement.

I have also never pretended to trip up ‘slap-stick’ style when only in my own company. Prior to being alienated from my three young children I would ‘trip up’ without fail every time I would serve them their evening meal at the dinner table. Each time would result in the same responses; my youngest child G, giggling loudly each time, appearing as if she would never tire of such tomfoolery. My eldest child B simply looking at me with dismay, refusing to show any acknowledgement that at his sisters age he had also found such idiotic behaviour funny. My middle child T rolling his eyes, while subtly grinning. “One of these days Daddy, you are going to fall over for real!” he would regularly exclaim. Not too long ago I attempted a ‘pretend trip’ while carrying someone, I nearly killed them! But that’s another story for another time.

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It is also not socially acceptable for a grown man to read a children’s story out loud in character. This brings me onto the subject of bed-time story telling. Perhaps somewhat of a chore for some parents, particularly after a busy day. On reflection there may have been odd occasions, where my focus may have strayed. For example if there was perhaps a bottle of Merlot awaiting my attention downstairs. (Someone once told me, it doesn’t count as drinking alone if your kids are in the house). Anyway, I digress, I know of one crazy parent that reads their child four whole bed-time stories each night. Crazy fool!

One of my many favourite activities as a dad is the reading of bedtime stories. My absolute favourite children’s picture book is Peace at Last by Jill Murphy. This is the tale of a Bear family and Mr Bear who is having difficulties getting off to sleep one night. I would read this to my youngest child G very often, it was also her favourite bedtime story.

Mr Bear is unable to get off to sleep. At the turn of each page he is seen taking himself to different rooms and locations around the house in a futile attempt to get himself off to sleep. The kitchen is too loud with a dripping tap, the garden is too noisy with nocturnal animals scurrying around, you get the idea. In each location, upon the discovery of each annoyance that prevents him from going to sleep, Mr Bear exclaims “I cant stand THIS!”

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I would employ my strongest cockney accent for Mr Bear (for any non-UK readers out there, I am referring to a proper East End London accent). I would get into character as much I could; accent, mannerisms and gestures. G absolutely loved this story being read to her by me, her loving Dad.

“where may I ask did you draw the inspiration for such a challenging role as Mr Bear?”

As my mind wanders now, I imagine finding myself as a guest on Inside the Actors Studio. Being interviewed by none other than the show’s very own creator and host James Lipton, in front of a worshipful audience of students from the highly acclaimed Actors Studio Drama School. “So btg-dad” James Lipton starts to inquire in his own inimitable style “where may I ask did you draw the inspiration for such a challenging role as Mr Bear?” I look upwards, slowly stroke my chin, in deep contemplation. “Well James, the attitude I wanted to present to the audience for Mr Bear I drew from the work of Ray Winstone. In terms of delivery of the tone and intonation I was inspired by Danny Dyer. And as for the gestures and mannerisms I was heavily influenced by the character of Del-Boy Trotter from Only Fools and Horses.”

Right that’s enough of me talking rubbish! The point is G and I absolutely loved the bedtime story routine. At the end of each story, G and I had somewhat of a ‘slap-stick’ routine to work our way through to bring the story telling shenanigans to a close.

“I love you too Daddy, goodnight.”

I would ask G to close the book, and at that point I would over emphasise an attempt to lean in and give her a goodnight kiss. She would then pretend to close the book and get my nose caught in the closing book. This would inevitably result in a bout of uncontrollable giggling from G. While rubbing my nose ‘better’ I would be leaning on the side of her bed. At this point G would then ‘push’ my arm off her bed resulting in me ‘falling’ onto the floor. Further uncontrollable giggling would ensue. We would have a few more minutes of loveable and joyous banter then I would say good night.

“I love you so much G, have lovely dreams, goodnight” I would tell her before giving her a proper kiss on the cheek and giving her a combination of a hug and a proper squeeze. “I love you too Daddy, goodnight.”

 btg dad


Please Note: We pledge to never make a profit or any other form of financial gain from any individuals affected by the current injustice of the family justice system.

We will gladly signpost individuals to professionals within our wider network who operate in line with our core principles; contact us for more details. 

We pledge to never request payment from such individuals, nor request a finder’s fee from such professionals for any referrals made.

We offer a completely free Support Line. To find out more prior to booking click here. To book a call from one of our dedicated Support Line Volunteers click here

The CCA Support Team

A Living Death?

Another well written article by lost-dad, incredibly poignant. Please read and share to raise awareness of the evil that is parental alienation.

“To enable, or not to enable, that is the question…”

The above play on words got me pondering on both the nature and choice of behaviours of those that intentionally or unintentionally become enablers of parental alienation.

To be, or not to be, that is the question,” from Shakespeare’s Hamlet is arguably the best known line from literature and theatre. In its entirety the speech shows Hamlet’s profound dissatisfaction with life and its many struggles.

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He is uncertain what death by suicide may bring. This is subtly  underpinned with the Christian denunciation of suicide, the Tudor belief that suicide leads to the fires of hell. Hamlet is highlighting the dread and uncertainty of suicide. He believes the wrong judgement call leads to the fiery gates of hell with no way back.

In life there are many decisions and actions that are pivotal. Enablers of parental alienation ultimately make the wrong judgement call, when they intentionally or unintentionally engage in certain behaviours. Some choose to ‘turn a blind eye’ while others are prevented from doing the right thing.

“Nowadays we are encouraged to not just stop ‘turning a blind eye’ to such things as sexism, racism and any other form of abuse, but to actually challenge it.”

I short while before writing this post, I politely as possible I challenged the behaviours of some individuals who were clearly enabling the parental alienation of my children. Their response shocked me. One of their many counter-arguments were that they understood parental alienation, however they reminded me that when a couple separates it is important to remain impartial.

I have reflected on this point and given it a lot of thought. Nowadays we are encouraged to not just stop ‘turning a blind eye’ to such things as sexism, racism and any other form of abuse, but to actually challenge it. However it saddens me to think that individuals, that might even have a gut feeling that something is amiss, adamantly stand by the argument that it is more important to remain impartial. This is something I simply do not understand.

On a separate note I write letters to each of my alienated children, however their mother refuses to hand them over to the children. I recently asked one of my children’s schools if they could start reading these letters to my youngest child. Their reply was that without the consent of the children’s mother they are unable to facilitate such a request. This is despite the school being more than aware of the ongoing significant level of emotional abuse being inflicted on my children by their mother. In response to this I forwarded the school a Court Order that explicitly states that both direct and indirect contact has been ordered. I also put forward the point that the school was unintentionally and arguably unknowingly enabling this severe alienation by not facilitating my request.

To enable, or not to enable, that is the question. Being unable to answer this question themselves, the head-teacher sought legal advice from the local authority. The subsequent advice was that the school should not get involved and that they must remain impartial. The head-teacher stated that he wished he could help but it would be going against legal advice! Once again this is something I simply do not understand. To enable, or not to enable, that is the question. Should we even need to question it?

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” William Shakespeare, (All’s Well That Ends Well).

btg dad


Please Note: We pledge to never make a profit or any other form of financial gain from any individuals affected by the current injustice of the family justice system.

We will gladly signpost individuals to professionals within our wider network who operate in line with our core principles; contact us for more details. 

We pledge to never request payment from such individuals, nor request a finder’s fee from such professionals for any referrals made.

We offer a completely free Support Line. To find out more prior to booking click here. To book a call from one of our dedicated Support Line Volunteers click here

The CCA Support Team

Everybody Hurts

In 1992 R.E.M. released their eighth studio album Automatic for the People. Back then I was a mere 18 years of age, living and growing up in North London. During this time my friends and I would meet outside the local offy (off licence/liquor store) every Friday evening prior to ‘going out on the town’. Due to there being no mobile phones or social media back then we would always meet at the same time and at the same offy every Friday evening.

The evening would start with us all excitedly bundling into the offy and each purchasing an alcoholic beverage or two; a somewhat undignified aperitif designed to moisten the palette for the night ahead. For most of us, the biggest worry back then would have been the post pubescent issue of being asked for ID in front of your friends when attempting to buy alcohol. Anyone asked for ID due to the misfortune of looking underage would subsequently be subjected to a barrage of abuse, ridicule and good old fashioned British piss-taking by their friends once everyone had safely purchased their goods and exited said offy.

“Back then that was how we ‘shared music’ and we would ‘like it’, simply by telling each other in person we liked it.”

With cans and bottles being opened and cigarettes being lit, the conversation would then turn to the most important things in life for us at that time; what pub are we going to tonight, who’s going in who’s car, who’s getting the first round of drinks in, who’s drinking what, who’s going out with who. Sometimes the magnitude and complexity of such conversations required quite a lengthy debate from all involved.

It was at this point during one of these evenings that I was sitting in a friends car, most probably drinking a can of Fosters while smoking an Embassy No.1 like some kind of Dickensian street urchin, in a futile attempt to look cool. My aforementioned friend had Automatic for the People blasting out of his car cassette player. Suffice to say I got a lift with him to the pub while we continued to listen to said album in his car. Back then that was how we ‘shared music’ and we would ‘like it’, simply by telling each other in person we liked it. We may have listened to it on the way home that night, but for obvious reasons I don’t remember that part of the evening.

“The obligatory pencil always nearby for any cassette emergencies.”

I remember going to my local Our Price record store at the earliest opportunity after that night out and excitedly buying Automatic for the People on cassette. For some reason I didn’t have my Walkman on me, so I had to wait until I got home to listen to it on my Hi-Fi stereo cassette player that took pride of place in my bedroom at my parents house. Like any other album that captivated me at the time, I played it again and again.

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The obligatory pencil was always nearby for any cassette emergencies that always seemed to happen to your favourite tapes. One of my favourite tracks on the album at the time was the up tempo and cheerful The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite. This was then followed by Everybody Hurts, a track that at the time, as much as I didn’t dislike it, it simply didn’t draw me in.

At the risk of sounding like my Dad (who is amazing by the way), back then was a different time. People interacted with one another differently, the world seemed a more innocent place. Maybe that is the nature of nostalgic reflection on one’s youth and the sub-culture that one belonged to. Who knows? In line with this 90’s undertone, answers on a postcard please!

Automatic for the People as an album stayed with me, as was the case with many albums it became somewhat of an internal soundtrack to my youthful shenanigans. And as my life progressed many songs and albums would take on a deeper meaning, a deeper connection. Several years later, one of those songs was Everybody Hurts, and over the coming years I listened to it more and more. I now view it as a beautiful song, in my opinion, its sheer simplicity is what makes it beautiful.

There have been very recent times in my life when I have been unable to listen to it at all. This was particularly the case when I faced very dark times in the Spring of 2017. This was due to the intensity of the battle I still continue to fight to this day; I continue to fight for the right to be a father to my children. I have been refused this right due to parental alienation. I have not had any meaningful contact with them since 2016. However I am listening to it now as I write this and remember more innocent times, such as those I have written about above.

I loved my youth, I definitely didn’t appreciate it and it feels like it flew by in the blink of an eye.

Someone once said “youth is wasted on the young.”

btg dad


Please Note: We pledge to never make a profit or any other form of financial gain from any individuals affected by the current injustice of the family justice system.

We will gladly signpost individuals to professionals within our wider network who operate in line with our core principles; contact us for more details. 

We pledge to never request payment from such individuals, nor request a finder’s fee from such professionals for any referrals made.

We offer a completely free Support Line. To find out more prior to booking click here. To book a call from one of our dedicated Support Line Volunteers click here

The CCA Support Team

One Small Victory Against Parental Alienation

As the name of this blog suggests I am in a battle, however I do not revel in the fight. I am often defeated, but seek no pity for each loss. I cling on to those around me and trust in their love and support. All I wish is to be a father to my three beautiful children. That is what I am fighting for day in and day out.

As any parent fighting parental alienation knows, the number of defeats completely outweigh the victories. Requests and pleas for help are regularly turned down by social services, judges, friends etc. The list goes on of the people, services and institutions that will turn their back on you when you need them the most. An alienated parent’s love for their children is the ultimate motivation to carry on in the face of such adversity.

“It is hard to describe in words what it feels like to fear the possible abduction of one’s own children by their other parent.”

However despite enduring numerous defeats over the last ten and a half months a significant victory fell upon me very recently. There is currently a travel restriction that prevents my ex taking our children out of the country due to the very real and enduring risk of parental abduction. However she very recently attempted to appeal it in court. Her request was denied due to the above risk. This is the small but incredibly significant victory. It is hard to describe in words what it feels like to fear the possible abduction of one’s own children by their other parent, the fear increasing with each passing day leading up to the court hearing.

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I do not wish to elaborate any further on the fear, nor the past defeats, but simply emphasise how much I value the support and love from those close to me during this time. Despite everything, I am lucky to have such kindness and compassion around me, to see me through both the victories and the defeats.

In his retelling of the Arthurian legend The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, John Steinback writes “somewhere in the world there is a defeat for everyone. Some are destroyed by defeat, and some made small and mean by victory. Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory.”

btg dad


Please Note: We pledge to never make a profit or any other form of financial gain from any individuals affected by the current injustice of the family justice system.

We will gladly signpost individuals to professionals within our wider network who operate in line with our core principles; contact us for more details. 

We pledge to never request payment from such individuals, nor request a finder’s fee from such professionals for any referrals made.

We offer a completely free Support Line. To find out more prior to booking click here. To book a call from one of our dedicated Support Line Volunteers click here

The CCA Support Team

Looking for Stories of Parents Affected by Parental Alienation…

In my continuing battle to fight parental alienation and promote social change I have started writing an evidence based article. This currently has the working title of ‘Are UK authorities effectively safeguarding children in their approach to the issue that is parental alienation.’

A recent post of mine (Cafcass Asked Me If I Had Any Ideas. Here Is My 16 Page Response!) will form part of a section on Cafcass. Once I have completed the article in its entirety I aim to use it in various ways to highlight the numerous service gaps that are allowing this form of abuse to go unchallenged.

I am looking for parents that are affected by parental alienation that are prepared to share their stories with me. The selected stories will be included within my article as vignettes. Please be assured that any stories included in the article will be fully anonymised. All that I ask for is that stories meet the following criteria:

  • The affected parent must be UK based
  • Written accounts of the affected children being ‘brainwashed’/alienated against the affected parent
  • I would prefer replies from those that have had involvement with Cafcass

If anyone is interested in contributing their story of parental alienation please email me and I will aim to be in touch within 24-48 hours.

On a similar note, although I am a mental health nurse and have experience of writing evidenced based essays, I am all too aware that there are affected parents out there that have far more experience of parental alienation than I do. Any suggestions, ideas, input will be very much appreciated.

Thank you.

btg dad


Please Note: We pledge to never make a profit or any other form of financial gain from any individuals affected by the current injustice of the family justice system.

We will gladly signpost individuals to professionals within our wider network who operate in line with our core principles; contact us for more details. 

We pledge to never request payment from such individuals, nor request a finder’s fee from such professionals for any referrals made.

We offer a completely free Support Line. To find out more prior to booking click here. To book a call from one of our dedicated Support Line Volunteers click here

The CCA Support Team

‘The Living Dead’, by David Shubert

I am incredibly proud to be involved with the organisation I Was Erased. This U.S. based group is the brainchild of David Shubert, who is a parent continuing to fight what is now a nine and a half year battle to be reunited with his children.

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The organisation’s aim is to provide and share support and resources for alienated and left behind parents. Their website can be found at www.iwaserased.com

David regularly writes what he refers to as ‘reflections’ and posts these online. The following is David’s latest reflection, entitled ‘The Living Dead’. This particular piece brought home to me what it is to be an alienated parent.

David has kindly given me permission to post his reflection on here:

The Living Dead

The very breath we breathe is sucked out of us.  We walk around like zombies.  The smile we once had is no longer visible and peace is forever gone.  This is what it is like for a parent who has been alienated from their children.  We simply cease to function on a normal basis. On the outside, we are just like you but on the inside we scream in terror and hold onto dysfunctional behavior.

Most people who know us do not understand what we are going through.  They only see what they want to see.  They will never understand what it is like to lose their child because of the vindictive actions of an alienating spouse or the erroneous decisions of a family court judge.  They think we embellish our situation and should be able to move on but, how can we?

There are many parents and our children who have chosen to lose the battle of alienation because the pain is too great and are unable to continue fighting for what they desire.  It is unfortunate when this occurs because their pain may end in the physical and emotional sense but, they leave it behind for those still on this earth who once loved them.

For myself, I have known three parents who have chosen to end their pain and suffering in the most dreadful manner caused by alienation.  It leaves a hole in my heart that can never be filled.  For family members, it must be even more devastating.  I can only say that you must hold on and believe that tomorrow will be better.

It is imperative that each of you take care to safeguard your mental and emotional health because you need to be here for the time when your children awaken from their slumber and realize they need you.  If, you choose to make the ultimate decision to end your pain… you are wrong and you are selfish.  Pick yourself up and make the conscious decision to fight back against the dark powers.

There is a way to do this and that is through the power of self-healing.  Step back from the fight. Concentrate on yourself and do something that promotes a different emotional environment for yourself.  I understand how difficult this may be and how you may feel that you are giving up on your child through this process but, if you are damaged then you are no good to yourself nor your child.

Take time to heal.  Go on that long awaited vacation.  Go fishing.  Camping with a friend?  How about taking a dancing class?  Counseling?  Whatever you need to do make sure that you fulfil your bucket list and come back a more complete person.  After all, you’re worth it and so are your children.  They need to have you back in their lives and not an emotional wreck.  They need you as you once were.

Ultimately, the choice is yours to make.  You can either choose to live in silence and emotional fear as well as heartache, or you can make the conscious decision to rise above  and heal yourself.  Don’t be selfish in your actions.  Consider who you are doing this for and that is your children.  They deserve to have a super-mom or super-dad in their corner fighting for them.

Heal yourself from within and regain your life, your smile and your children.  We all have this drive and fight inside us, we just have to reach down deep to find it.  We do not have to be the living dead.  We can instead be the living parents again!

By David Shubert

The original post can be found here.

btg dad


Please Note: We pledge to never make a profit or any other form of financial gain from any individuals affected by the current injustice of the family justice system.

We will gladly signpost individuals to professionals within our wider network who operate in line with our core principles; contact us for more details. 

We pledge to never request payment from such individuals, nor request a finder’s fee from such professionals for any referrals made.

We offer a completely free Support Line. To find out more prior to booking click here. To book a call from one of our dedicated Support Line Volunteers click here

The CCA Support Team

Parental Alienation and Empathy

In the following paragraphs I would like to explore parental alienation and empathy.

The definition of parental alienation is simple. One parent, (in most cases the resident parent) deliberately damages, and in some cases destroys, the previously healthy loving relationship between the child and the child’s other parent (the non-resident parent). A key tell-tale sign of parental alienation is when the alienating parent prevents their children from having any relationship with the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on the alienated parents’ side of the family. For a more detailed definition of parental alienation see here.

The English word empathy is derived from the Ancient Greek word empatheia, which means “physical affection or passion”. This, in turn, was derived from enpathos, when broken down is seen as en, meaning “in, at” and pathos meaning “passion” or “suffering”.  The term was adapted by linguistics to create the German word Einfühlung (“feeling into”), which was translated by Edward B. Titchener in 1909 into the English term empathy.

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Empathy describes ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’. Not to be confused with sympathy which is defined as ‘feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune’. Simply put,  it is how we as individuals understand what others are experiencing as if we were feeling it ourselves. It is a key characteristic of emotional intelligence, which itself is the ability and capacity to be aware of, to have control of and to appropriately express one’s own emotions. This in turn allows us to navigate our way through interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Ultimately,  as is the same for numerous other personality traits, some of us are more empathic than others.

“Parental alienation as a form of abuse should be viewed within the context of mental health to ensure an effective and robust assessment process.”

A lack of empathy is all too prominent in the presenting behaviours of alienating parents. Some alienating parents will suffer from psychopathy and it is these parents that are a particular threat to children and need to be identified as soon as possible (Lowenstein, 2010). In my opinion as both an alienated parent and a psychiatric nurse, this point lends itself to the argument that parental alienation as a form of abuse should be viewed within the context of mental health to ensure an effective and robust assessment process. There are only three disorders that have an underlying absence of empathy; autism, narcissistic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. I would argue that without an assessment of the alienating parent’s presenting behaviours by a practitioner with a clinical understanding of mental health, any personality traits and/or related psychopathy will be missed.

A lack of empathy is also present in some alienated children. Of all the presenting symptoms expressed by an alienated child, the absence of empathy is the most disturbing (Childress, 2016). Any absence of empathy in an alienated child should be cause for extreme concern. However as stated above, due to the lack of understanding of mental health by the relevant services, such presentation in affected children is missed or underestimated.

Empathy, albeit a lack of, also plays a key part in the behaviours of those that enable parental alienation. Most enablers all too often act out of weakness rather than spite. However, this does not by any means justify their behaviours. The alienating parent will rely on these enablers to not provide any support at all for the targeted parent. Unfortunately, enablers will often go a step further and shun the targeted parent. The alienating parent will capitalise on the lack of empathy enablers have for the targeted parent.

To conclude, among the players within parental alienation there is inextricably a link between them and a lack of empathy.

In Harper Lee’s 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, her character Atticus states “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

btg dad


Please Note: We pledge to never make a profit or any other form of financial gain from any individuals affected by the current injustice of the family justice system.

We will gladly signpost individuals to professionals within our wider network who operate in line with our core principles; contact us for more details. 

We pledge to never request payment from such individuals, nor request a finder’s fee from such professionals for any referrals made.

We offer a completely free Support Line. To find out more prior to booking click here. To book a call from one of our dedicated Support Line Volunteers click here

The CCA Support Team

Cafcass Asked Me If I Had Any Ideas. Here Is My 16 Page Response!

Over the last month I have been relentlessly hassling Cafcass (The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) in an attempt to get them to safeguard my children from their mother’s ongoing emotional abuse. At time of writing, I have now not seen my children for almost 11 months. This is due to their mother denying me contact and alienating my children against me and my family following or separation last year. For a detailed explanation of parental alienation click here.

“The current system in place for battling parental alienation is inadequate and flawed.”

A couple of days ago a member of management from Cafcass telephoned me to discuss my concerns about their lack of effective protection of my three children. I asked him numerous questions such as “what are you planning to do to protect my children?” Most of the questions he was unable to answer. However he rather surprisingly agreed with me that the current system in place for battling parental alienation is inadequate and flawed.

ResponseToCafcass_PeaceNotPas

At the end of the conversation he informed me that he would be open to any suggestions or ideas I might have in working towards contact and reconciliation with my children. In response to this comment I wrote an evidence based proposal and emailed it to him directly. I eagerly await his response!

“In order to seek a solution to any problem, we first need to understand it.”

I appreciate the following is a lot to read, and could be quite heavy going for those affected by parental alienation. However I would encourage those parents battling to see their alienated children to read this in its entirety. I myself feel more knowledgeable about this problem after researching it further in order to write my proposal. I believe that in order to seek a solution to any problem, we first need to understand it.

The following is an anonymised version of my proposal.


An evidenced based proposal to Cafcass in tackling the issue of parental alienation

Thank you for taking the time to contact me on the # May. I very much appreciate the fact that you are open to suggestions from me in terms of promoting contact and reconciliation between my children and I. As such the following is an evidenced based proposal of how I feel Cafcass should approach the issue of parental alienation concerning my children and their mother.  

As you are aware, following our separation my children’s mother accused me of physically and emotionally abusing all three of my children. As one would expect this triggered a safeguarding concern resulting in the court not permitting any contact between myself and my three children until these claims were investigated further. As is all too often the case when parents engage in alienating behaviours, these claims were clearly used to justify my children’s rejection of me as their father. As expected the subsequent Cafcass report stated that there were no safeguarding concerns.

“It is unnatural for a child to reject a relationship with a loved and loving parent.”

The Case Manager at the team wrote in the report that he felt the children’s mother had elaborated the truth. The same report also stated that the children’s mother was attempting to make me look like an ‘ogre’ in the eyes of our children. In line with numerous theories such as John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, it is unnatural for a child to reject a relationship with a loved and loving parent. However this is the harsh reality for too many families following divorce or separation. In summarising the Cafcass report, it was evidenced that my children’s mother was exhibiting alienating behaviours and emotionally abusing our children. Evidence showed that their mother was preventing our children from enjoying and benefiting from healthy attachment relationships. She continues to prevent contact with the children, not just with myself but also with all members of my own family.    

When we spoke in person on the # March at ####### Family Court we both agreed that in an attempt to make sense of their parents separation, my children are in fact responding in a maladaptive way. We also both agreed that unknown to them they are subconsciously protecting themselves from the psychological dissonance they are currently experiencing. During this same conversation, you expressed the particular concern that both you and the Case Manager (at the time) have in respect of my eldest son B, given his very rigid thinking and strong assertion that he has no positive memories of me at all. We both agreed that he is not able to process the current situation by himself and needs help and support with this. You also went on to inform me that your professional opinion was that without anything being done to help B change his view of me (and without his mother being able to challenge his thinking (whether intentionally or not)), B is at a grave risk of developing serious emotional mental health issues in the future. This was also echoed by the District Judge when we went in front of her on the same day, who highlighted to my children’s mother the potential for the children to be very damaged by the current situation if she continues with her current approach.  

The current belief from the leading researchers in parental alienation is that children can, with effective therapeutic input recover from parental alienation very quickly and with the right ongoing support, become healthy, happy and stable once again. However, my current concern is that Cafcass is struggling to recommend a robust and effective enough intervention.

A further concern of mine is that Cafcass is unable to differentiate between a child who is responding to a conflicted dynamic within a family setting and a child who is in the care of an alienating parent. Practitioners without the experience of the ways in which children respond to family separation, will invariably approach each case in the same way (Woodall, 2015). Such professionals consider that it is conflict alone which gives rise to the child’s refusal to spend time with a once loved parent. Some professionals will put forward the idea that the parent who is being rejected has done something to justify such an extreme reaction and subsequent rejection. In relation to my circumstances I was told by the Case Manager at the time “you need to accept the consequences of your actions.” Subjectively this appeared to be a suggestion that my children’s supposed rejection of me was justifiable and normal. 

Current experts in the field of parental alienation, such as The Family Separation Clinic in London advocate a detailed assessment. Following this and in accordance with evidence based practice The Family Separation Clinic advocates individually designed interventions. This appears to be in stark contrast to the current approach of Cafcass, which does not officially recognise parental alienation and as such appears to all too often recommend an approach of ‘one intervention fits all’. For example, in my own case it was recommended that I attend a co-parenting course. The course facilitator started the course by making the somewhat uninspiring and insensitive comment that “the Family Courts do not have the time or the resources to understand the complex dynamics of each of your situations.” 

Despite a lack of official recognition of parental alienation by the UK government, recent judgments have brought this issue into the public domain for further debate. The case of child S, aged 12 and his father’s request for transfer of residence went to court in 2010. Reflecting on the case HHJ Bellamy (sitting as a deputy High Court Judge) highlighted the following points:  

  • The concept of alienation as a feature of some high conflict parental disputes may today be regarded as mainstream.
  • There is no professional or expert consensus as to the approach the court should take with an alienated child. The solutions tried in this case had failed. The case demonstrated that there could be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.
  • Alienation will only be a feature in a small number of cases and may be outside the experience of the care professionals. In cases involving an alienated child it is “essential that the court has the benefit of professional evidence from an expert who has personal experience of working with alienated children.” 

The above points highlight Sauber and Worenkliens’ (2013) argument that due to a lack of professional awareness of the complex dynamics of family separations, there is a risk that some professionals unknowingly collude with the parent who is engaged in the alienation process. As in my case a professional only made contact with my children after the process of alienation had been completed. According to Kelly (2010), the problem of alienation being experienced by children stems from a reaction to conflict. The roots of which usually emanate from unresolved issues in the relationship experienced by one parent or both. 

As we agreed in the aforementioned telephone conversation, the term ‘in the children’s best interest’, gets used often. However Baker et al., (2013) point out that the opinions of children in such circumstances, must be listened to with caution and experience, because, they argue it is often what is not being said as much as what is being said which gives away the reality of the trauma and conflict that the children are experiencing. Baker and Fine (2013) put forward the argument that children who are coerced or forced to choose one parent over another results in the rejection of the targeted parent.

Children who are being exposed to alienating behaviours are very likely to want someone to intervene on their behalf (Baker 2013). All too often by the time any input is facilitated by professionals, alienated children may have been placed at the top of the family hierarchy. As highlighted by Cafcass, my eldest son appears to be taking on a paternal role in his current home setting. This ‘power’ has been afforded to him by his mother, the alienating parent. It saddens me to know that he has now been elevated to a position to make decisions within the family setting that are not rightfully his. Due to the complexities of parental alienation, any children in this position are at serious risk of being further abused by those who are trying to help. This is particularly the case for those people who are unable to break the bind that the child is facing, such as those that enable such alienating behaviours, be it knowingly or unknowingly (Gottlieb 2012).

When a child is presenting with the above alienating behaviours, they have already begun a process of splitting all of their feelings for each of their parents into two stark and distinct directions. At this point they present with only profound love for the resident parent. For the targeted parent they present with a deep hatred and sometimes fear. Gottlieb (2012) argues that to the affected children, these feelings will feel real, as such they will base them ‘on fact’. This is a result of constant alienating behaviours by the resident parent. This will result in the repeating of such behaviours to observers and which, when challenged by professionals, may even escalate.  

As already discussed Cafcass have highlighted my children are at risk of long term emotional and psychological issues. My children’s current presentations and behaviours can also be indicative of a maladaptive attachment to the alienating parent. Cafcass has evidenced that in relation to her response to our separation my children’s mother appears to be transferring her own emotions onto our children. This in turn results in her depending on our children for support in dealing with her emotions, this dependancy is known as ‘parentification’. Minuchin (2004) refers to this phenomenon as ‘spousification’ and points out that it can create conditions in which the child is elevated to the top of the family attachment hierarchy (Kerns and Richardson, 2005) by a parent and given the choice and the responsibility for taking care of the parent by rejecting the other. As already highlighted my eldest son has been ‘elevated’ within the family hierarchy.  

During our conversation at court we also discussed the possibility of assessments. Gabbard (2010) advocates the need for assessments of both parents, to determine whether or not blame projection is present. Blame projection, is a common feature of separating couples, but is one which can be minimised with the appropriate intervention and co-operation of both parents. Woodall (2015) highlights the issue that a parent who remains with the rigid belief that the other parent is to blame, without being able to accept or acknowledge any responsibility for the current position, is likely to remain in a hostile and rejecting position. In my own case this is an issue that I have been relentlessly trying to highlight to numerous professionals that I have come into contact with, most of all Cafcass. Such an attitude from the alienating parent is likely to influence a child who may also appear to have some element of rigid thinking, as is the case with my eldest son. A fixed and rejecting partnership between the alienating parent and affected child will result in the child viewing the targeted parent as a threat and/or unwanted. Cafcass have also highlighted this as a concern in the case of my eldest son.

“All current evidence suggests that such a conflict of loyalty should be addressed as soon as possible.”

In response to my two eldest childrens’ continuing rejection of me, the opinion of Cafcass was to “give them time and space.” The Cafcass Case Manager attempted at the time to assure me that this was what my children “wanted” and I “should respect and accept their wishes and feelings”. However all the available evidence informs us that such rigid views from the alienating parent, projection of blame and an insistence that a child is making their own decisions are all signs that a child is trapped in a conflict of loyalty to the alienating parent. Stahl (2001) argues that such loyalty conflicts stem from children being afraid to love both their parents. This is due to the amount of pressure being placed upon them by the alienating parent. All current evidence suggests that such a conflict of loyalty should be addressed as soon as possible.

In terms of effectively assessing the issue at hand, The Family Separation Clinic argues for the categorisation of types of alienation. Bala (2012) has developed a system of categorisation, in order to determine whether the type of alienation belongs to one of the following:

  • Hybrid or Mixed – This involves such conflict whereby both parents have extreme differences in parenting and personalities. Resulting in children being unable to relate individually to the two parents that have parted.
  • Pure – In this case a parent is maliciously and deliberately causing a child to reject their other parent.  

Bala’s system breaks down the the category of pure alienation further into the following:

  • Pure and Conscious Alienation – In this case the alienating parent is aware of what they are doing and refuses to or is unable to stop their negative behaviours.
  • Pure and Unconscious – This is the case where a parent is unable to know or understand what they are doing is wrong. This is due to a personality or psychiatric disorder.  

Bala also states that the treatment of parental alienation is dependent upon the categorisation of the problem. Bala also argues the importance of differentiating between hybrid alienation and pure. He argues that this assessment step is pivotal in deciding upon the most appropriate and effective intervention. A case of hybrid alienation will require a very different route to that of pure alienation and a case of pure and conscious alienation will often require a different approach to pure and unconscious.

“The assessment of whether a personality disorder is present or not, makes it possible to determine the most effective intervention.”

A presentation of pure and unconscious alienation is arguably as difficult to address as a hybrid presentation. This is due to the alienating parent being completely unaware of the impact of their behaviour upon the child. Baker (2013) argues that pure and unconscious alienation is often the result of a personality disorder. Baker also argues that when an alienating parent is completely unable to recognise or acknowledge that their behaviours are causing a child to be in a severely alienated state, a personality disorder should be investigated in the case of the alienating parent. The assessment of whether a personality disorder is present or not, makes it possible to determine the most effective intervention. Early on in my case Cafcass identified that my childrens’ mother does not acknowledge or recognise that her approach is causing our children to be severely alienated. With this evidence in mind and my professional awareness and understanding of personality traits as a Charge Nurse on a psychiatric assessment ward I have been relentlessly requesting Cafcass consider a personality disorder. I would argue that Cafcass’ own account of her presentation fits in with Bala’s category of pure and unconscious. The aforementioned category type is viewed as needing the most swift and robust action, such as a transfer of residence (Bala, 2012).  

In terms of arguing for a more mental health orientated approach, as much as a difference of opinion regarding the clinical difficulties in diagnosing parental alienation as a syndrome persist it is however included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). DSM-5 authors Dr. Narrow and Dr. Wamboldt (2016) state in a scientific paper 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). This, they argue confirms that parental alienation is indeed in the DSM-5. 

Where the targeted parent has not contributed to their position of alienation, all evidence suggests that a child emerges immediately from their position of alienation, particularly when there has been respite from the coercive behaviours of the alienating parent, such as a change of residence (Woodall, 2015).

“Evidence also highlights the need for the rejected parent to be reintroduced as quickly as possible after an intervention begins.”

One of the unorthodox elements of the delivery of interventions specifically tailored to challenging parental alienation is that it is most effective when facilitated ‘in situ’. In essence therapists, mediators and parenting co-ordinators attend the home of the resident parent involved rather than parties being required to attend certain locations. This unorthodox delivery has several advantages. Facilitation ‘in situ’ attempts to minimise the risk of non-attendance by the alienating parent. Another advantage is that the affected children can remain in their family environment while undergoing psychological support. Evidence also highlights the need for the rejected parent to be reintroduced as quickly as possible after an intervention begins. Thereby exposing the child to the feared or hated parent in a safe and supportive environment with support from practitioners who are unafraid to override the child’s expressions of fear.

The following are vignettes of successful work undertaken by The Separation Clinic(Woodall, 2015): 

1.  Three children aged 8,9 14  all severely alienated and refusing to see their father.  When I began work with them in February 2015 they had all been completely rejecting of their father for a period of two years.

This case has been successfully treated through a combination of therapeutic intervention and parenting co-ordination whilst working with a Guardian who understands alienation and who is able to hold the tension of the court’s expectations that the children will have a relationship with their father very firmly.  This enables the therapeutic work to be undertaken swiftly because it limits the risk of triangulation in which the alienating parent utilises the doubts and lack of understanding in professionals to continue the children’s ability to reject.  The time taken to resolve the children’s rejection of their father was less than four weeks, the length of time taken to achieve optimum time between children and father for therapeutic challenge and readjustment of the relationship was twelve weeks.  Compulsion of the children to attend periods of time with their father was achieved through the use of court directions. Compulsion of behavioural change in the alienating parent was achieved through a suspended transfer of residence. 

In the above vignette it is clear that it is the combination of court process plus therapeutic work which creates the dynamic change which liberates the children.

2. One child, severe rejection of more than five years, treated in a combination of therapeutic work and supported parenting time.  Successful treatment arrived at by therapeutic work with parents plus immediate reconnection of child with rejected parent and movement into a shared care situation.  Dynamic change was created by the threat of a change of residence and the removal of all ability by the alienating parent to triangulate the dynamics in treatment (case was handled by one therapist with the Guardian acting as super parent and receiving reports on a regular basis, the Guardian holding the power to return the case to court at the request of the therapist).  Treatment time from rejection to reconnection was fourteen days. 

In this vignette it is clear that the threat of a transfer of residence is the core element that creates the compulsion for change.

So to continue with my proposal, in light of what my children are currently being exposed to, my question is this, if my children were being abused in any other way what would be the recommendations from Cafcass? Would the response be much more robust and urgent? Bearing in mind that Cafcass Chief Executive Anthony Douglas publicly states that emotional abuse inflicted by a parent on their children following a separation should be treated the same way as any other form of abuse.  

With all of the above evidence in mind and the circumstances of my case, I propose Cafcass provides the following recommendations/approach:

  • A thorough assessment of both parents to ascertain the category type of parental alienation. This is to be carried out by practitioners that are experienced in the assessment of and treatment of parental alienation.
  • Following assessment, the formulation of an effective, robust and category appropriate psychological intervention
  • The psychological intervention to be facilitated ‘in situ’ due to a consistent lack of engagement and attendance at previously ordered interventions by the alienating parent.
  • The first session is to involve only the children and their mother. However in line with above stated evidence I will be present from the second session onwards.
  • The frequency and length of intervention will be dependent on the amount of progress being made
  • If there continues to be a lack of behavioural change on the part of their mother the option of a temporary/permanent change of residence to be available and/or an extension of the intervention

 

References 

Baker, A. and Sauber, R. (2013) Working with alienated children and families. New York and London: Routledge.  

Baker, A. and Fine, P. (2013). Educating divorcing parents in working with alienated children and their families. New York and London: Routledge

Bala, N. (2012). Children who resist post separation parental contact. London: Oxford University Press.  

Gabbard, O. (2010). Long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.  

Gottlieb, J. (2012). The parental alienation syndrome. Illinois: Charles Thomas Publishing.

Kelly, J. (2010). In: Fidler et. al (2012). Children who resist post separation parental contact. London: Oxford University Press.

Kerns, K., and Richardson, R. (2005). Attachment in middle childhood. New York and London: Guildford Press.  

Minuchin, S. (2004). Family Therapy Techniques. Harvard University Press: Cambridge.  

Sauber, R., and Worenklein, A. (2013). Working with alienated children and their families. London and New York: Routledge.

Stahl, M. Retrieved from article by – remarks made at the plenary session of CRC’s conference in May, 2001.

Woodall, K. (2015). Understanding and working with the alienated child. Available at: https://www.familyseparationclinic.com/articles [Accessed 09/05/2017].

Woodall, K. (2015). Three vignettes in the successful treatment of parental alienation. Available at: https://karenwoodall.wordpress.com/2015/07/08/three-vignettes-in-the-successful-treatment-of-parental-alienation [Accessed 09/05/2017].

btg dad


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