Parenting and separation – the challenges of parental alienation and what to do about it
Parents want what is best for their child. The Family Courts in England and Wales want that too. The welfare of the child is the paramount consideration of the Court when deciding questions concerning a child’s upbringing.
If parents are able to agree what is in their child’s best interests, the Courts never need to be involved in decisions concerning, for example, where that child lives, where they go to school and if, when and where they go on holiday with a parent. If parents are unable to make these parenting decisions together, they can ask the Court to decide.
It can be difficult to discuss parenting with a partner for lots of reasons, not least because your child is what matters most to you in the world. Add to that a relationship that is deteriorating, has broken down or which maybe never really started in the first place and it is easy to see why talking about what is best for your child does not always result in agreement. It may not even be possible.
Choosing a family lawyer who can help you communicate effectively can be one of the best decisions you make for your family. Whether it means assisting with written communications, arranging mediation or finding the right therapist or counsellor, we will try to find a solution that works. Investing time making sure that we strike exactly the right tone in emails or texts with the other parent has made a real difference to clients in the past.
If you have had a difficult relationship for years, it may be hard to break down barriers which have formed but advice from someone removed from the situation can help. Opening lines of communication makes it easier for parents to agree unforeseen changes to, for example, weekend activities or school pick-ups. It can reduce stress for parents at a time of great tension and so help the whole family. So can putting together a parenting plan. We can help you come up with a roadmap for how you and your ex want to parent your children. Your plan could just set out important principles or it could contain specific details but, either way, it can be a reference point for you as you navigate life as separated parents.
There is a ‘no order’ principle in England and Wales, which means that if parents can make key decisions about their child’s upbringing together, the Court does not need to make any order. Families going through a break up can then avoid the additional strain of attending Court to deal with arrangements for their children.
However much you may want to, sometimes it is simply not possible to make shared parenting decisions. When that happens, either parent can ask the Family Court to assist. The Court will usually need written evidence from both parents. They may also need written input from an expert and possibly from other individuals able to offer an insight into what is best for the child. If parents can’t reach an agreement after they have seen the written evidence, the Court will then need to make a decision.
The written evidence provided to the Court is crucial. It can help settle a case. When a case can’t be settled then parents may need to attend to Court to answer questions about the written evidence provided. We help you provide written evidence which allows you to be heard and understood because we know how important that is. We work with parents every day to find a way through situations that can feel impossible to resolve.
In some cases, such as when one parent wishes to move abroad or fears that the other parent poses a danger to their child, it may be necessary to get the Court involved. Parents’ beliefs about what is best for their child are so opposed that they cannot reach an agreement without assistance. When that is the case, we work tirelessly to ensure that the Court fully understands all the details which have led to such opposing views. It can sometimes be difficult to see, for example, the reality of a parent’s behaviour, and the impact of it on a family, without careful consideration of a large amount of evidence, often spanning many months or years, which subtly reveals it. We are skilled at this sort of forensic analysis and it has been an essential part of successful outcomes for clients whose families have had to grapple with these issues.
Whether you are trying to co-parent by agreement or need the assistance of the Court, we have a wealth of experience and can help you find the best way forward.
If you are affected by any of the issues covered in this blog, please contact our team of family and divorce lawyers, who have longstanding experience in resolving disputes around child arrangements and co-parenting and who understand the pressures this can put on all parties involved.
You may also be interested in reading our previous blogs about children and divorce.
Cady Pearce is a Senior Associate in the Family team at Kingsley Napley. She advises on a range of private family matters involving both finances and children. Cady has experience of complex financial cases and often deals with cases involving overseas assets and unusual issues. She also advises on a range of private children matters and she understands the emotional impact disputes relating to children can have on a family and works hard to try and find the best solution. She provides clients with excellent care and makes sure that they have all the professional support they need, both legal and emotional. Cady has experience in dealing with difficult cases involving relocation, issues with contact and allegations of parental alienation.
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