Parental alienation amounts to child abduction done slowly. Both involve severing the relationship between a parent and a child. In abduction the severing of bonds is achieved by a single cut. In parental alienation there are usually many cuts and sometimes years of preparation before the cutting begins.
This Radio 4 program, entitled ‘The Untold: Child of Mine’, tells of a mother whose child was abducted. It could just as easily been a father having his child removed. It’s a dreadful experience whether the mother or father is left childless. Please do not waste our time or, anyone else’s, pleading that it is worse for one than another. There are plenty of places where you can have that pre-school, he said / she said spat, and this is not one of them.
Anne -Marie Hutchinson, the specialised child abduction lawyer interviewed in the program stated:
‘The behaviour of removing a child, whatever the rights and wrongs of the legal position, in a way where the other parent does not know, is always reprehensible and damaging to the child.’
Later she added:
‘The longer a situation goes on, where a child is estranged or isolated from its other parent, the more difficult it will be to reestablish the relationship between that parent and the child. Sometimes, to the extent that it becomes self fulfilling, because the opposing parent will then say, “ Well, the child has not seen the other parent for x number of years and does not know that parent and therefore contact and the reestablishment of the relationship would be damaging unless it is dealt with in a particular way using, you know, supported psychiatry or some other paediatric professional”.
‘So delay in this situation is going to damage the child.’
The law also agrees S 1 (2) of The Children Act 1989 states unequivovally that:
‘In any proceedings in which any question with respect to the upbringing of a child arises, the court shall have regard to the general principle that any delay in determining the question is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child.’
However, the reality is that these lengthy delays are accepted by the courts as part and parcel of normal everyday life. Most of us who enter the family court system, and have to wait months for a first hearing, will quickly reliase that much of the Children Act, although well intentioned, is actually optional. One of the biggest contributors to estrangement and the irretrievable breakdown of child contact is therefore the family justice system itself. Indeed, courts frequently fail to wake up to the fact that a parent’s alienating behaviours are responsible for the breakdown of a parent / child relationship until it dawns upon them that a particular case is intractable. There is an easy way of demonstrating intractability but unfortunately, and all too often, this involves years of delay until the point is reached where the court, in its wisdom, concludes that it is the lesser of two evils to leave a child in the clutches of an emotionally abusive parent than to change residence to a healthy normal range parent ! It does sadly appear as if some courts would rather wait until a child can be said to be autonomous rather than make awkward decisions.
The pain parents experience when a child is torn from them is apparently appreciated when it is done by the state. Lord Justice McFarlane is the most recent president of the family division to state this but he also effectively added that the same cannot be said of cases featuring PA. The abduction scenario provides another example where severing the parent / child relationship is automatically considered wrong.
However, Parental Alienation is the Cinderella of these two very ugly sisters. The only difference is that it is slower. In other words it is severence by a thousand cuts.
Severance is severence no matter what you call it and no matter how one defines it and whether it is done by another parent or the state. Whoever does it, whatever the process and regardless of whther it is done in a single cut or many,