One of the UK’s leading shared parenting charities has criticised the United Nations’ (UN) approach to parental alienation, suggesting that “denying and demonising parental alienation is not the solution”.
The UN’s Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, Reem Alsalem, is to investigate how family courts around the world approach the concept of “parental alienation” and the potential for those that suffer domestic abuse to be doubly victimised.
Alsalem will look at the causes for the increase in allegations of parental alienation and the rising number of bitter court battles surrounding the concept. The UN commissioner for human rights Volker Türk gave context to the UN’s review:
“The tendency to dismiss the history of domestic violence and abuse in custody cases extends to cases where mothers or children have brought forward credible allegations of child physical or sexual abuse.
In several countries, family courts tend to judge such allegations as deliberate efforts by the mothers to manipulate their child and pull them away from their father.
This supposed effort by a parent alleging abuse is often termed ‘parental alienation’. The term generally refers to the presumption that a child’s fear or rejection of one parent, typically the noncustodial parent, stems from the malevolent influence of the preferred, typically custodial parent.”
Yet, Shared Parenting Scotland has expressed concern that the background briefing to the UN’s call for evidence is “based on generalised assertions that are not well-founded”, with the charity’s National Manager Ian Maxwell suggesting the briefing presents an “incomplete, inaccurate, and prejudicial picture” of the issues. He continued:
“Our experience in Scotland over the last 12 years of our casework is supported by a number of recent Scottish and English court decisions in which it was found the unjustified rejection of one parent due to the intentional or unwitting influence of the other parent does happen in some families after separation. The features that fall within the description of ‘parental alienation’ are present in such cases.”
Many of these apprehensions surrounding the concept have, however, been reflected in England, with President of the Family Division Sir Andrew McFarlane issuing a memorandum in October last year, Experts in the Family Courts, which said “pseudo-science which is not based on any established body of knowledge will be inadmissible in the family court”.