Boy ordered to leave mother following parental alienation

Parental alienation is when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent. As a result of such manipulation by one parent a child may want to stop any contact with a parent following the divorce or separation of the parents.

If the courts can establish a case of parental alienation, then there are a few options available to the court which are:

  • Contempt of court – the court can find the alienating parent to be in contempt of court and impose sanctions on them
  • Custody modification – the court has the option to change custody of the child
  • Reunification therapy – counselors are involved with the family in an attempt to counsel both the parent and the child to reunify the child with the alienating parent.

Courts remove a child from the mother following parental alienation

One of the most severe consequence for parental alienation is transferring the custody of a child to the other parent. This is exactly what happened in the case of MFS (Appeal: Transfer of Primary Care) (2019). 

The case concerned a child who following the separation of his parents resided with his mother. Proceedings have been ongoing with the case since 2012. The recent litigation commenced in May 2017 when the father applied for a change of residence. In March 2017 the mother suspended the child’s contact with the father on the basis that she has been notified by the school that the child expressed concerns regarding physical and emotional abuse by the fathers partner and the children of the father’s partner.

Considerations made by the court when looking at parental alienation

The judge ordered a section 37 report to be prepared and appointed a guardian for the child. The judge had concerns that the child’s comments in relation to the contact was due to influence and as a resulted directed for a psychologist assessment of the parents. The summary of the psychologist assessment was as follows:

  1. The father does not suffer from mental health problems
  • The mother has persistently portrayed the father negatively, as violent, as mentally unwell, and denigrated him as the father. The child identified with the negative and hateful feelings expressed by the mother towards the father, which in turn made the child make allegations against the paternal family and reject his father.
  • This case, in my view, is a case in which the mother alienates the father as a result of her collusion with her son against the father. This constitutes emotional abuse.
  • The mother persistently sees her own distress in others: she sees psychiatric problems in the child and his father, while considering that she herself functions well and has no psychological problems. I’m concerned that she is preoccupied with the need to set the father aside, driven by her anxiety that she might lose the child, or that the child might prefer his father over her.
  • I have made the point that the mother did not make the child adequately available for this assessment.

A child psychiatrist report was also commissioned which identified that the child was suffering from stress which was a result of the parental situation and the child has been subject to and to having imbibed a very negative view of his father as well as his stepmother. A change of residence would alleviate stress if the court concluded that the mother had encouraged the child to form an unnecessary and unrealistically negative view of the father.

The Guardian expressed concern that the mother was asserting that the child had OCD and Tourette’s when there was no medical basis for this and was relaying inaccurate information about the father.

The Courts decision concerning the mother’s parental alienation

Following the above findings of the psychologist assessment of the parents, the s.37 report and the child psychiatrist report the judge was of the opinion that the mothers behaviour had caused the child significant emotional harm and made the order that the child was to immediately move to live with his father.

The mother filed a notice seeking permission to appeal against the order of 28th September 2018. The mother seeks that the order be set aside. The notice was filed some 5 weeks out of time. In between the final hearing and the lodging of the mother’s notice she had parted company with the solicitors and counsel who represented her at the final hearing and had instructed new solicitors and leading counsel.

The mothers’ grounds of appeal were:

  • The decision of the court was made on the basis of a serious procedural irregularity in that the influential report of psychologist, Dr Willemsen was prepared and presented to the court despite a number of breaches of guidance and proper procedure as to the preparation and presentation of such reports
  • In all the circumstances the decision of the court to immediately remove the child from his single primary carer was disproportionate and wrong

The judge dismissed the appeal and stated “Having conducted what I consider to have been a very detailed review of the evidence before HHJ North and his judgment with the benefit of powerful written and oral advocacy in support of the parties cases I have reached the clear conclusion that the appeal is without merit. Whilst it was only possible to reach this clear view after that detailed consideration it is clear that neither of the grounds of appeal had any realistic prospect of success when tested against the evidence that the judge had available to him.”

The judge agreed that the due to the damage caused to the child from the parental alienation the decision to change the primary carer was in the child’s best interest and it was a decision which was proportionate on the evidence obtained.

This again is a clear reminder that parental alienation can cause significant harm to the child psychologically and is considered serious by the courts who have the power to remove the child from the care of the parent who is causing the parental alienation.

Arrange legal advice today

Should you have any questions or concerns in relation to parental alienation or any child matter you can contact our offices to arrange a free initial consultation. Contact our family lawyers in Oxford today on 0330 094 5880 or let us call you back.   

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