Parent Alienation: Purposefully turning a child against the other parent?

Justine Woodcock, Chartered Legal Executive at Astle Paterson, discusses CAFCASS’s new guidelines for dealing with cases of suspected parent alienation.

Divorce and separation can be extremely stressful and emotional, especially when children are involved. Sometimes, in the process of reaching an agreement as to who the child lives with, parents might let the emotional strain get the better of them. Known as parent alienation, one or both of the parents might try to turn their child against the other in order to skew the decision of the family Court.

CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) look after the interests of the child in divorce and family Court proceedings. CAFCASS work with the child and their parents and are asked by the Court to suggest what actions would be in the best interests of the child.

In Spring 2018 new measures are to be put into place to combat parent alienation.

Alienating behaviour could involve a parent badmouthing the other, creating beliefs that the other parent does not wish to see or love the child, or seeking to limit or deny the other parent contact with the child.

Under the proposed new procedure, when dealing with cases of suspected parent alienation CAFCASS officers will have to consider a new set of guidelines called the ‘High Conflict Practice Pathway.’

These guidelines analyse the impact of parental conflict on a child, and indicate when a child should be removed from the alienating parent. However, CAFCASS’ priority is to preserve the parent-child relationships where it is in the best interest of the child.

Within the new guidelines, CAFCASS has developed a 12-week Positive Parenting Programme which their officers may suggest an alienating parent participate in. The course aims to reduce parental conflict and encourages the parent to see themselves from the child’s perspective. Should the Programme not resolve the issues, the alienating parent’s contact with their child may become limited to supervised visits.

Should you need assistance or advice on child related matters, please contact Justine or our Divorce & Family Law team on 01283 531366, or by email at

Learn more about our Family Law services  or  Contact our specialists online

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