Parental Alienation

In parental alienation cases we are coming up against two arguments. One side says that the children are being deliberately alienated by the other spouse and the other spouse is saying that the children became particularly attached to them following the separation and they are not deliberately trying to alienate the children from the other parent.

We recently had a case where effectively the Circuit Court Judge threw his hands up and said there was nothing he could do to remedy a situation he regarded as outrageous. Effectively he said he cannot force this child to be brought kicking and screaming to see her father even though I believe there has been wrongdoing by the mother, who he decided was responsible for the alienation.

If a judge decides that this is a case where parental alienation has occurred, what can he do? In that case the judge said there was nothing he could do and would not make any order.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

There are steps however, that can be taken. A judge could make an order that the child or children attend a Family Psychiatrist or therapist with a view to strengthening the bond between the alienated parent and the child/children. Money will obviously be a consideration and if one party is paying maintenance to the other then the maintenance could be reduced accordingly to cover the costs involved. If money was not an issue, the ideal outcome would be for the psychiatrist/counsellor to actually supervise access and ensure that strategies are in place to strengthen the relationship between the alienated parent and the children.

It is an unfortunate reality that children are often the pawns in the battle between two separated parents and in my view the situation can only improve if the parent responsible for the alienation can be penalised and in this regard I support recent calls for parental alienation to be regarded as a form of child abuse and subject to criminal sanction. I would also urge the courts to make orders to ensure that children who are suffering from parental alienation get the help they need and that the guilty party, if there is a guilty party, should bear whatever financial consequences that follow.

Kevin Brophy

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