There was a worrying case in yesterday’s Mail Online. A mother has disappeared with her child after the court awarded residence to the father. The Mail article can be viewed via the link below:
Why had residence been granted to the father? The mother had made false allegations intended to frustrate contact. In essence, she’d put her own desires before her child’s best interests. The brief details in the Mail article would suggest this underpinned the court’s judgment.
There is deserved criticism of the courts for not taking a more critical approach when parents perjure themselves or put selfish desires before their children’s best interests. Malicious (as opposed to anxiety led) false allegations are a form of domestic violence, intended to control, which cause profound emotional harm to the other parent. Often that harm becomes psychological damage, as the falsely accused suffers stress and depression or physical health related reactions. Aside from the devastation at not seeing your child and fear when false allegations are made, false allegations can see people forced from their homes, damage people’s careers, and cause long term health problems. Perjury is not a victimless crime, and it is crime (although often not treated as such).
Decisions such as the one made in this case are not simply about justice for the accused or punishment for the accuser, or to provide a deterrent to others who are tempted to lie about their ex-partner (had the mother not have absconded with the child, I doubt we’d have heard about the judgment). There is a clear welfare issue when a parent is willing to subject their children to harm by unnecessarily seeking to severe their children’s relationships with their other parent and wider family. There is a real risk that children who are prompted to believe false allegations suffer psychological harm, and false perceptions about a parent can cause the child problems with their own identity. An overwhelming body of social and psychological research confirms that children’s educational, psychological and emotional development is adversely affected when deprived of one of their parents.
While critical of the court at times, we often remind people that the courts are taking intractable contact disputes more seriously than in the past, do consider reversing residence if the case circumstances support such a decision, and parental alienation and intractable contact disputes are not as ‘hopeless’ as they once were. There remains inconsistency in the system, but within that inconsistency is good practice as well as bad. The parent who makes false allegations, seeks to alienate their child or who frustrates contact does face risks.
It should be enough that parents don’t wish to put their children through such harm. Sadly for some, consideration of their children’s needs and welfare is over-ridden by a desire for revenge or a need to control/punish their ex-partner. Sometimes, it is simply because the parent decides they don’t want the inconvenience of the other person in their life, thinking only of their life rather than the child’s, and are unable to separate the two. For those parents, perhaps the above case will act as a deterrent. Making false allegations does carry risk, and a risk easily avoided.
We hope the child is found safe, and soon.
If you’re affected by any of the issues in this blog, please refer to our guides and case law.
- The Importance of ABC – Attitude, Behaviour and Common-sense
- Child Arrangements Orders
- Child Arrangements and Contact Enforcement
- Parental Alienation
- False Allegations
- UK Based Child Abduction
- Resolving Disputes – Court Process