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How do the Courts deal with parental alienation?

In October this year, a case appeared before Mr Justice Keehan in the Royal Courts of Justice.  The father in this case had applied for an order that his son (12) move to live with him.  His son was at the time living with his mother and had rejected to see him.  The father made allegations of parental alienation and reports were undertaken within proceedings to investigate these allegations further.

The Judge favoured the father’s evidence and formed a positive view of him.  He stated that the father clearly loved his son and was fully committed to him.  His view of the mother was a negative one.  He stated that the mother verbally attacked the father’s character and it was plain that she saw no benefit to their son having a relationship with his father.  There were concerns that if direct contact was reintroduced whilst the child was still in his mother’s care, that his views of his father would come more entrenched.  The Judge found that any such attempt was likely to fail.   He established that the only means by which the child can have a full relationship with both parents is to make an order that the child live with his father.  This view was carefully balanced against any harm the child may suffer were he to move to live with his father.  The Judge took into account the following:-

  1. he has lived all of his life to date with his mother;
  2. he is settled in school and has an established group of friends;
  3. he has many interests and is a member of a Taekwondo club;
  4. he has lived the majority of his life in the Midlands albeit he has visited and stayed with his father in the South of England;
  5. he will have to accept his fathers and paternal family’s home as his new home;
  6. he will have to settle into a new school part way through a new school term;
  7. he will have to make new friends; and
  8. he will have to familiarise himself with his new environment and locale in a new City.

Nevertheless the Judge was satisfied and found that:

  1. he would be fully supported by his father and the paternal family;
  2. he will have the support and guidance of an independent expert in this field;
  3. it is most likely that his former close relationship with his father will be restored in very short order and;
  4. any trauma and or stress is likely to be of short duration only and will resolve when he settles into his father’s care.

Parental alienation was proved, and the mother was found to have alienated the father and was not supportive of his role in the child’s life.  The absence of his father from his life would likely cause the child emotional and social harm.  The only means by which a relationship could be established with both parents, was to order that the child move.

It is well established that the court’s views are that, wherever possible, children should have a good relationship with both parents.  Moving a child from one home to another is a big change, that is not ordered lightly.  It is clear however that the court will carefully balance the harm of a move against the harm that would be suffered by not having a good meaningful relationship with both parents.

Do you have concerns about parental alienation?  Do you want to know more on this topic?  Please contact us so that one of our solicitors will be able to discuss this with you further.

Re H (Parental Alienation) [2019] EWHC 2723 (Fam)

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