Are we getting somewhere? Are the times a changin’?
I was much-chuffed to read the judgement in Re L 2019. My feeling is that we are starting to see some judicial enlightenment on this subject.
In this case, the mother was found not to have alienated the child from the father. Nevertheless, the child was ordered to live with the father, and the mother appealed. The appeal was dismissed.
I think this case does support my argument that we should not use the term ‘Parental Alienation’. The original trial judge found that the mother displayed various unhelpful behaviours, but that these fell short of being describable as ‘Parental Alienation’ or ‘Implacable hostility’.
This is interesting. The mother alleged sexual impropriety by the father. That was determined by the judge “to a very high standard of proof that there has been no sexual or physical abuse by L’s father of his son.”
But no PA..?
The judge had ‘grave concerns’ about the possibility of the mother undermining the child’s relationship with its father, but adjourned the case to find out more…A Guardian was appointed for the child. So it was left hanging…The judge acknowledged that everything might be ok (pretty obviously yet another victory for hope over experience), but that it was quite possible that the matter would return to court. The Guardian (CAFCASS-appointed) concluded that the child should live with its mother – for the sake of ‘stability’. But the report concluded:
“…I have confirmed in this report that L is safe in the care of (father). (Mother and grandmother) must accept this. They must also accept that they have created a situation where L returns to their care and shares aspects of his spending time that are not necessarily true and they facilitate a manipulation of or put words into L’s mouth. However, if (mother) cannot accept this at the next hearing then I would be inclined to consider more greatly that a change of residence is necessary.”
Six months later yet another CAFCASS officer records that matters had now worsened for L considerably so that:
“L described his mother entirely positively and his father entirely negatively. L’s responses to his father during supervised contact appear to show little concern for his feelings and he required no prompting to say that he wanted no contact with his father.”
Still no PA…
Another CAFCASS officer reported:
“I observed L and his father to have a highly positive, close and fun relationship with one another. It was entirely obvious once L was able to relax and have fun that he feels comfortable in the presence of his father and he presented as a very happy, excited and joyous child. I found there to be no concerns with the quality of their relationship or with the care and attention the father provided L.”
Still no PA…!
The judge went on to hold that the mother contributed to the situation so that L was “not allowed the emotional space to express positive feelings about his father and, in contrast, received emotional reward for expressing negative views.”
Still not PA?!
Dad was due to take child on holiday, but the mother failed to provide the child’s passport at the airport. The evidence was that she had had it with her at the airport..The police were called and the passport made available.
Still no PA…
and the judge, as if shoring up his earlier observation said, of the behaviour of the mother (and particularly the maternal grandmother)
“If I look to the future, I am afraid I see more of the past. “
The judge concluded that, despite short-term problems that may arise, the child should live with his father.
“The Guardian had undertaken some work with L and, as a result of her assessment, she held back from asking him the central question [pertaining to ascertainable wishes, not merely expressed wishes] because she considered that to do so might cause him harm. ” Wow. Good old CAFCASS…
The mother’s appeal (against the Transfer of Residence Order) was dismissed.
So, this seems like a good decision, and it is. But – if all of the matters listed above do NOT amount to PA, we are left wondering, ‘well, what does?’
The next question we should ask ourselves, is ‘why does it matter?’. Who cares if any particular behaviours amount to PA? The point is that the judge’s analysis of the situation is that the mother has turned the child against the father and cannot be relied on to facilitate contact. Call that PA if you like. Call it ‘Bob’. Who cares – we get to the right result.
But clearly judges simply do not like this label. Judges don’t like anything with an ‘ism’ on the end – they hate ‘syndromes’. They hate psycho-babble. Many will still look askance at illnesses like PTSD, Repetitive Strain Injury, Munchausen’s by proxy and so on. So – just be careful how you frame your argument. Do not ‘label’.
Well, let’s leave the judges to their petty pedantry. It really doesn’t matter. Let’s just understand that (pre-judicial enlightenment) using the label PA will hurt your case – simple as that.
And, as long as we can avoid that, maybe we are seeing the tide turning…? This is a very good decision from the most senior family judge, who has promised to improve things. See here his address to Families Need Fathers.