Introduction to Westminster Dialogue 2017

Family Law on Trial – a case of the system’s failure to protect children from harm?

By Rebecca Giraud and Bob Greig

OnlyMums & OnlyDads is an on-line organisation that works with parents going through divorce and separation.

Parents often don’t know where to go for help when it comes to working things out with the ex.  We all know that there is a wealth of half-baked information on the internet being provided by so called ‘experts’.  We offer something different.

Our organisation offers parents access to the best professional guidance available through our Panel of 120 Resolution-member solicitors and mediators. This gives parents the opportunity to seek some initial, objective, and professional guidance on their options for taking matters forward in a way that keeps the best interests of their children at the forefront of their decision making.

We are not lawyers, or social workers. We have never worked in a court or in the civil service. We have, however, spent 10 years listening to parents – mums and dads – and the difficulties they are facing.

There is one issue that comes up daily and that is the ‘delays in the system’.  It is our contention that these delays can drive already warring parents further apart and more importantly place children at risk of harm.

The “denial of contact” resulting from the delays in the system is pernicious. The detrimental impact on the non-resident parent will be known to those in this room. The negative impacts on the children being denied contact with one of their parents may be less well documented. 

What we hear is that if a resident parent decides they simply don’t want the other parent to see the children, without there being any safety issues, it will take the non-resident parent 4, 5, maybe 6 months to get a court order enabling them to see their children again, if by that stage it is not already too late. In too many cases, this pattern of – contact stopped, mediation, followed by court hearings, contact re-established only to be broken again a few months down the line – can be repeated year after year and results in whole childhoods blighted by irregular ad-hoc stressful contact with a loving parent.

Our question today is this. Where there is no “evidence” of the non resident parent being a risk to their child, why can’t the courts – “the system” – order the re-establishment of contact within a matter of days?

Equally, where a relationship breaks up and one of the parents gets involved with a violent partner, in what way can the system be changed to recognise and deal with that risk? In this situation the court needs to respond quickly to protect the child.  As we heard last year from Polly Neate, the then CEO of Women’s Aid, too many children experience domestic violence in the UK. As a parents’ organisation we simply don’t understand why, when one parent sounds the alarm bell, it takes the system months or even years– or a violent incident – before facts are established and action taken.

An analogy

Should you leave this event and trip over outside and hurt your arm you would end up at a doctors. They deliver a triage system to assess what needs doing, They would undertake an initial assessment and if a break was suspected you would be directed to a casualty department. There (within hours) you would be examined by a specialist. There would be investigations. Medical history, X-rays, possibly a scan. Bespoke treatment would be offered. Within a day you would be sorted.

I know the comparison doesn’t fit neatly- but let’s say you leave this room to go and pick up your children only to receive a text saying you are not going to see them this week and indeed not until further notice.

You might turn up at a family court with legitimate concerns about your child’s welfare and there will be immediate confusion as to who you would need to talk to. You may be offered booklets and a form or two. Weeks later you would find yourself attending a MIAM. If that doesn’t work you will find yourself back at the Court picking up a C100 form to fill in. That’s 20 pages to fill out and a six page checklist.

Once completed you will need to photocopy it three times and pay over £200 to again wait weeks for a court appointment…need I go on.

Conclusion

We are NOT calling for radical change. Rather we are asking for the 1989 Children Act to be fully implemented to do what it sought to achieve. To do this we need to zoom in on how to keep the welfare of the child paramount.

We have two questions which look at process rather than the wording of the legislation per se:

  1. Can we improve the court’s initial risk assessment and preliminary hearing systems – there are many anecdotal case studies that suggest they are not robust enough or quick enough, and
  2. Are the courts consistent in their appreciation of what “harms” children?

We took these questions to our Chair, Norman Hartnell, MD of The Family Law Co and Chairman of our Steering Group.

5 thoughts on “Introduction to Westminster Dialogue 2017”

  1. FNF RESPONSE TO ‘FAMILY LAW ON TRIAL’ – Westminster Debate

    The launch of Practice Direction 12J provides an opportunity to reflect on the way that the debate around Domestic Violence and Harm has developed in the past 18 months.

    We are grateful to the President of the Family Division Sir James Munby for the opportunities that he has afforded our charity, Families Need Fathers, to raise issues with him that are experienced by our members and others, and for publicly acknowledging our contribution to the re-drawing of PD12J from the first draft published by Cobb J at the end of 2016.

    Inevitably there are elements within the final version of PD12J for which we did not advocate, and there are other elements of our lobbying that were not included explicitly in the published version. One of the latter was a call for the explicit recognition of the withholding of contact without lawful means – ie that a Court Order to that general effect was both harmful to children and explicitly a form of domestic violence and abuse recognised by the Practice Direction. Sadly we were unsuccessful in making that explicit enough, although we firmly believe that such abuse is covered in the overall definition set out in the Direction.

    We would go beyond the use of the phrase ‘unjustified withholding of contact’ to focus upon the legal basis upon which one parent seeks to prevent or infringe the right of the child set out in Article 9.3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to ‘maintain direct contact and a meaningful relationship with both parents following divorce or separation’. If a parent believes that any person – whether a parent or not – poses a danger to a child, they have an opportunity to seek redress in a number of ways – including making an application to a Court for a Child Arrangement Order or such other Order as is thought necessary. In emergency a Police Constable can also intervene to place a child in ‘protective custody’ under s46 of the Children Act 1989. Sadly all too often, we see that one parent takes possession of a child, prevents contact, refuses mediation and then effectively requires the other parent to seek redress through the Family Court.
    We know that allegations of domestic violence, abuse and harm are frequently made in the Family Court. Cafcass have recently produced a ‘research’ study in partnership with Women’s Aid claiming that 62% of cases involved such claims. However data that FNF has obtained directly from the Ministry of Justice based upon C100 applications, together with other data captured by HMCTS from proceedings, has shown that around 48% of cases include allegations of some form. What is not currently available are the figures around the number of cases involving allegations which are found to be unproven, false or malicious. Evidence from Scotland suggests that allegations of harm to children are a factor in more than 35% of family law disputes, and YET through the Court process, more than 2/3rds were found to be false and just 1 in 20 was found to be proven (see https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265346094_False_allegations_of_child_abuse_in_contested_family_law_cases_The_implications_for_psychological_practice).
    FNF has led the way in calling for the proper recognition of Parental Alienation by the Family Courts as well as by the criminal authorities. The conscious or unconscious manipulation of a child to reject a relationship with one of their parents and their wider family is a serious child protection matter that needs urgent attention. We are calling on the Police and the CPS to recognise that Parental Alienation is a criminal offence under s66 of the Serious Crimes Act 2015 and to act urgently to ensure children are protected from harm. We are also calling on the Family Courts – specifically the President of the Family Division – to issue clear and helpful guidance on the identification of ‘Parental Alienation’ together with procedures for overturning it as well as for preventing it from taking hold in the first place. Cafcass have already recognised that more than 80% of their most difficult cases involve Parental Alienation yet there still exists a fragmented and inconsistent approach by the Courts and others in preventing this insidious form of abuse.

    Delay is indeed the enemy of progress in resolving Family Court disputes. This was recognised as far back as the Children Act 1989. Section 1 sub section 2 of the Act states

    ‘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.’

    We know that delay is endemic in Private Law. An adversarial approach may well contribute to delay and we welcome any moves to look at the system of Private Law dispute resolution from a fundamentally different perspective. We note that in Australia, the Government there has announced that it is about to start a consultation looking at a complete overhaul of their approach and adopting an inquisitorial rather than adversarial system is high on their list of priorities. We welcome this approach and indeed would point to the welcome lead shown by The President in terms of inserting a provision in s27 c of Practice Direction 12J to allow for such an inquisitorial approach when domestic abuse is alleged. Given the prevalence of such claims it would seem sensible to consider whether all cases could be dealt with in this way.

    FNF is calling for –
    • Recognition of unlawful withholding of child contact as a form of emotional abuse.

    • Recognition of Parental Alienation as a form of psychological and emotional abuse of children by both Criminal and Family Authorities together with clear protocols and procedures to protect children from abuse.

    • An equality of arms when allegations of abuse or violence are made i.e. both or neither accuser and accused must receive Legal Aid.

    • Robust mechanisms for determining the veracity of allegations of harm and abuse in the Family Court with clear penalties applied to those who make false or malicious claims. Where findings are made to that effect, any Legal Aid granted, must be repaid. The taxpayer should not be expected to pay for people who choose to game the system.

    • Consideration to be given to replacing the adversarial nature of Private Law with a system based on an inquisitorial one grounded in a solution focussed approach.

    • No-fault divorce to become the norm as reported to be supported by Baroness Hale, President of the Supreme Court, in today’s Times (06.10.2017).

    • Improved training for the judiciary on Parental Alienation as well as the issues of domestic violence and abuse – recognising the gendered nature of such abuse and ensuring that all aspects are considered.

    • Agencies of Government such as Family Courts and CAFCASS need collect more appropriate information to openly enhance understanding of their effectiveness.

    • Key performance indicators e.g. for Cafcass must not focus on operational measures alone, but on ensuring that safe relationships between children and both parents are achieved and sustained over successive proceedings if appropriate.

    • Research to establish the extent to which the current interventions of Family Courts and Cafcass affects outcomes for children and parents? Are they doing more harm than good? Do their services represent good value?

    • The default position for family courts (and the welfare system) to change so they longer treat one parent as a carer and the other as provider, failing to take into account that this is not how many families live in the 21st century.

    Last, but not least, we welcome the constructive and thorough proposals made by Norman Hartnell of ‘The Family Law Company by Hartnell Chanot’, and essentially we agree with them with just a few reservations.

    The suggestion of a “normal” default position is welcomed and we at Families Need Fathers are working on proposals for ‘Standing Temporary Orders’ as used in Florida for example. However, ‘withdrawal of court fees when allegations of harm are made’ – well, any application involving contact denial is an allegation of harm, even by Norman’s definition. That said, fees are too high now for many parents making applications. There should also be consideration given to the costs of applications for enforcement of orders that should, in any case, be borne by the parent who fails to comply with such orders or to make their own application to vary existing ones.

    The current situation, even with PD12J, is in itself abusive and an affront to justice itself. What Norman so importantly identifies is that when well intentioned, new legislation or rules are introduced, these also often provide new mechanisms for abusing the system. Measures designed to ‘safeguard’ or ‘protect’ can be, and in our experience often are, used as weapons in family disputes, thus providing an opportunity to commit harm to a child (and parent) through contact denial, and doing untold damage to the children involved in a way that often then crosses generational boundaries. Mechanisms that can be so weaponised must be tempered with measures to properly protect children and parents.

    There are some 50,000 Children Act applications a year to UK family courts. That is more than half of separations involving children, compared to just 2% in Sweden! The personal, economic and welfare cost of this broken system are almost unimaginable.

    The current system of Private Family Law is broken and remains in need of wholesale reform. The test of the system should not be whether it serves the majority of cases that are relatively easy and likely to have, in time, resolved themselves. The real test is how we deal with more difficult cases and how escalation of resolvable cases into intractable ones can be avoided. We very much welcome this urgent debate.

    Families Need Fathers – http://www.fnf.org.uk

  2. When a parent flees to the uk because of domestic violence the perpetrator can circumnavigate the ‘usual’ court procedures by using the hague convention on child abduction.
    The nature of hague convention hearings currently is not sufficient to determine the facts of the abuse or the harm that may arise by sending the children back to the other country.
    Drastic and immediate changes must be made to ensure that children are not being ‘reclaimed’ by child abusers.
    In an English court, English law must apply in every circumstance and the ‘best interests of the child’ must not be overlooked.

  3. I fully agree with everything you have written here. In our experience, the amount of fathers that try very hard to re-establish a relationship (not contact) with their children is high, and their attempts to ‘see’ their children as soon as possible, from day 1 of ‘contact denied’ is always thwarted by the delays, and equally importantly the cost of litigation. And this is even more apparent where there are no substantiated welfare concerns.

    What we also find in our experience, is that where a child is prevented from maintaining a relationship with their ‘other’ parent – there is a risk that the absence of this parent crystallises a ‘perception’ (erroneously) of that parent not caring. And of course there are some parents who will readily take advantage of such an anaesthetised environment – to the point where one may suggest that it was engineered in the first place.

    We have also encountered examples of situations where one parent then says (after a length of time of contact absence) – that the child now does not want to see that parent anymore – and then ‘hides’ behind the childs statement – as if it is a fait accompli.

    We are thus now asking a very simple question – which we find does not get asked enough – how does a child, where there are no substantiated welfare concerns, go from a loving relationship with one parent – to the point where that child now does not want a relationship with that parent. And sometimes within 3 months!

    This is the ultimate enemy of the issue of delay; because the delay can allow for this behaviour to materialise. We all have examples of where such situations are readily taken advantage of by a mendacious / malevolent other parent – who fails to rise above the narrow confines of their individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of their children/humanity.

    The old adage of: Access delayed is Access Denied – now perfectly sits alongside the maxim – Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.

    At the end of the day, we need to nudge those with responsibility and influence to fully understand what ‘mischief’ is going on. And ultimately, to understand is not to permit. But a failure to understand is the surest guarantee of a mounting strife which will assault the well being of every citizen and every law abiding loving parent. And therefore, in my humble opinion, the first task before us is this: an effort to understand. For the division between the state/law makers and the plight of so many denied parents is not a failure of compassion, though a failure of compassion there is; or of a failure of a sense of justice, though a failure of this there is as well. It is a material failure of communication and vision and empathy.

    Our worry, and we have seen this in many of our cases – is that the implacable hostility meted out by one parent – damages not only the other – but also leads to an emotional abuse of that child. That, sadly, very few pick up on. And the seed of a loving bond between a doting parent, sometimes becomes forever broken And let us not even begin to discuss the mental health of that loving parent denied a relationship with his son/daughter. The men we see – who are also victims of emotional abuse – could easily be categorised as vulnerable adults.

    In Dads Unlimited’s opinion – everything that makes a man’s life worthwhile – family, work, education, a place to rear one’s children, and a place to rest one’s head – all this depends on decisions of government. All can be swept away by a government which does not heed the demands of its people. Therefore the essential humanity of men can be protected and preserved only where government must answer fairly and equally – not just to the wealthy, not just those of a particular religion or a particular race, but to all its people. And we believe that this answer must embody a tradition based on the simple idea that we have a stake in one another, and that what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and more importantly act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done.

    Nav. Founder Dads Unlimited

  4. I am a family mediator based in Manchester – we see around 1200 families a year and I spend 3-4 days a week taking calls from people who are unhappy with the arrangements for their children

    I also worked for Cafcass for quite a long time and have been involved with a Womens refuge for many years.

    So just a few brief observations based on those experiences and reading the earlier comments

    1. My most common current experience based on responding to around 30 new referrals a week is sadly fathers who have been stopped seeing their children for no apparent good reason –

    – falling out over money
    – the presence of a new partner
    – rows on Facebook

    These are some of the common “reasons”.

    Some of the women opposing contact have been hurt emotionally and their reaction is understandable if not acceptable. Work to focus on the hurt and anger can often move things on especially if the parent not getting to see the children can be patient and hear and understand the feelings of loss and rejection the other parent is experiencing and both can separate out their feelings for each other as ex-partners from their different role as parents.

    If they have suffered domestic violence then even more caution is neeeded and it is key that the other parent is seeking time with the children for child centred reasons and not to get back at, control or harm the other person.

    2.However there still seems to be some women(and men who are living with their children) who see the children as their possessions within their control to decide what time, if any, is spent with the other parent. For those people a robust culture shift is needed from the outset that it is children’s needs which are paramount and that children generally benefit from a close relationship with both parents.

    I think for those parents a “re-education” course/experience early in the separation or court proceedings would really help with lots of inputs about the needs of children similar to some of the material on the Separated Parents Information programme which can be ordered by the courts but probably supplemented by some one to one work to challenge and unpick such attitudes and see on what they are based.

    3. However I also talk to a significant number of parents , mainly women, who desperately want the other parent to spend more time with the children but that parent will not because

    – he/she does not want to be dictated to or “help” the other parent in any way e.g. “I am not having the children on a Saturday night so she can go out drinking”
    – they have over invested in a “new” family and their original family and children have to take second place.
    – they want the right to see their children but not the hard work involved.

    This is a hard problem to shift and is very frustrating when a closer relationship with the children is on offer but somehow not really desired.

    4. Finallly on the very tricky aspect of children’s wishes and feelings and them being caught in the middle often desperate to please both parents.

    The article by the Family Court Advisor shows what a sensitive and skilled approach is needed. However I think it is very hard for a child to “speak up” knowing that what they say will be seen and read by both parents. I talked to some parents today in mediation whose 8 year old had clearly tried to “mediate” between her parents and find solutions for them where they were disagreeeing about sharing time with her. Children should not have to do that and despite all the nonjudgemental principles which are core to mediation I did talk with them together about needing to be that “bigger person” to get their daughter off the hook or sorting out their problems.

    I think what I am saying is that while it is important for chilldren to be able to express their views and feelings that is best achieved in a confidential therapeutic environment rather than a court setting . The main work should be with the adults to help the children so that the children can most of all just be themselves and enjoy life.

    There has been much said recently of mediation and low take up. I have to say that is not our experience as we struggle to meet the ever increasing demand for help .

    The main weakness in the current system is that the respondent in any child arrangements application does NOT have to meet with a mediator . This is often the parent with whom the children are living and who is denying contact. S(he) can simply sit tight and wait for the relatively slow court process to be set in motion.

    It would be so helpful if both parents had to meet with a mediator and at least be exposed earlier in the separation process to ideas about childen’s needs for two parents and not to be in the middle of conflict.

    The mediator could look to establish some relationship with the children for the parent who is being denied that through ideas such as

    – a neutral go between until feelings calm down a little
    – Contact Centres
    – Public venues such as play centes.

    Once “no contact” has been established for any signifciant period we all know it is very hard to shift but resourcing a free meeting with a mediator for the respondent early in the dispute would be invaluable. Our service offers that currently but it is becoming increasingly hard to sustain with no core funding.

    Enjoy the debate – It clashes for me with grandparent duty(the only thing more important than my mediation work!!) but would love to hear more of the outcome

    All Best Wishes

    Sheena Adam

  5. Some excellent comments.
    It is clear that parent alienation is an issue that grown 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 the children into dependency on them and break their relationship with the NRP, gradually coming to see them as the sources of discomfort and threat:

    -making the other parent apply to court to see the children
    – putting the children through social worker interviews for no good reason (an alien environment for most)
    – dictating the terms by which the other parent will see them
    – refusing to co-draft child arrangements/shared parenting plan
    – 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
    – refusing to “allow” school pickup
    – refusing to share significant events like Christmas
    – 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
    – undermining the other parent’s decisions and parenting
    – deliberately anfd often literally placing the children in the centre of arguments
    – discussing age inappropriate issues with children like finances
    – where there’s more than one child targeting one child first not to attend then pressurising
    – 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
    – 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
    – criticising the other parent in front of the children’s friends and their parents
    – 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
    – creating hostility during children’s events attended by the other parent but criticising them if they don’t/can’t attend

    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.

    Wayne Newton
    https://peacenotpas.com/about/our-ethos/

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