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  • Writer's pictureTim Rice

The poison of parental alienation

Updated: Oct 25, 2019

There have been two heartbreaking stories recently of children suffering because of parents who have separated and are now at war.

The particularly agonising aspect of these cases is that one parent has manipulated the children against the other parent – something known as "parental alienation". So effective has the campaign of lying and exploitation been that in one of these cases the judge has apologised to the father for not being able to help with access to his children. The man has given up after eight years of being unfairly demonised by the mother of his children so they now unfairly fear him or hate him. The judge said the man plainly loved his offspring and this was an example of "how badly things can go wrong".

In the other case, under Mr Justice Keehan, you can read the dreadful evidence of how a child is used as a pawn in a game between adults. In this case, the judge decided that the child should not be left with such a manipulative mother and ordered that he be moved to his father's house despite the upheaval that this would bring. It's a big decision – moving from the Midlands to the South of England, finding a new school, and most importantly bonding again with his father who he hasn't seen for a long time. Yet the judge decided that it was definitely in the boy's best interests to have a relationship with both his parents and he was confident that the child would get over the move fairly quickly.

In both these cases the "alienation" has been perpetrated by the mother. The psychiatrist who originally coined the term parental alienation in the 1980s did initially say that 90 per cent of perpetrators were mothers, but he later changed his view and stated that both parents were equally likely to alienate.

One of these judges in these two recent cases admitted that the emotion is so intense in his work that he has been known to retire to his room and cry his eyes out. There would be something very, very wrong, he said, for someone not to feel deeply the heartbreak of family break-up and the terrible emotions that swirl around the children caught in the middle.

In one of these examples the children look as if they will have to face life without their dad, even though he loves them dearly. In the other the boy has the opportunity to forge a loving relationship with his father and also retain a connection with his mother if he chooses. One shows how things can go very wrong; the other where things can begin to be put right.

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