Parenting Stereotypes and Alienation


A powerful talk by Dr Jennifer Hardman on parenting stereotypes and alienation, given at an independently organised TED talks event. Dr. Harman is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Colorado State University and is the Program Coordinator for the Applied Social & Health Psychology Program.

A number of interesting features for me.

  • Parenting stereotypes;
  • The importance of parenting time as a tool to address alienation;
  • Alienation as child abuse and domestic violence.

My thanks to JUMP for emailing this to me.


Karen Woodall – BACP Sanction Compliance Notice Published

We make this announcement following an invitation from Karen Woodall’s solicitors to announce details of her compliance with the sanction made against her by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

The details of the hearing, decision and sanction were published by the BACP in July 2015 with the decision of the Panel being “Accordingly, the Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to professional malpractice on the grounds of recklessness and the provision of inadequate professional services in that the service for which Ms Woodall provided fell below the standard that would reasonably be expected of a practitioner exercising reasonable care and skill.”

Details of the complaint and decision of the BACP were linked with our original piece on this matter, also published in July 2015. The BACP removes details of hearings and decisions from their website once the sanctions set out by the Association have been complied with. The BACP then post a notice of compliance which is published for a minimum two month period.

The sanction set out by the BACP required Ms Woodall to write a submission which evidenced her immediate reflections on, learning from and understanding of the issues raised within the complaint. Additionally, she was required to attend a CPD course of a minimum of 1 day’s duration (the course to cover working within closely contracted and negotiated boundaries). Further to attendance on the course, Ms Woodall was to write a report demonstrating her learning.

In May 2016 the BACP posted a sanction compliance notice on their site announcing they were satisfied that the requirements of the sanction have been met. That notice can be viewed here.


Help: Non Molestation Orders and Without Notice Applications


Data from a Freedom of Information Act request for non-molestation order applications (in 2014) shows that of the 21,162 applications (included in the statistical returns) a little over 60% were made ‘without notice’ (12,769 applications).

Without Notice applications to the court involving claims of domestic violence often result in injunctive orders being made without the accused having had the opportunity to present their own evidence in defense at the time the order is made (the orders being made ‘ex-parte’ which means without the other party being present). Typically, those applications are for non-molestation orders and occupation orders.

These orders have serious implications and can impact upon the respondent’s family life, restrict their freedom of movement and carry a power of arrest if broken.

When such injunctive orders are granted, the applicant is then entitled to legal aid and professional representation. The accused is not. This gives the accuser advantage in future proceedings/hearings if the accused then seeks to challenge the making of the order or there are contested proceedings over arrangements for children.

As well as injunctive orders being made ‘ex-parte’, on occasion hearings are listed on short notice giving the accused little or no chance to prepare. Where orders are made ex-parte, the court is unlikely to have heard any evidence which challenges the allegations. In cases where there is genuine risk of violence to the applicant, there is good reason for the accused not being ‘tipped off’ in advance of the court making precautionary orders. Such caution however has its risks in that, when allegations are false, this can result in the court being a party to coercive control and the accuser having unfair advantage in future proceedings.

Such injustices do arise. In R v R (Family Court: Procedural Fairness) [2014] EWFC 48, Jackson J lists a catalogue of errors by the lower court, and gave comment (at paragraph 1(5)):

“The court should be on guard against the potential for unfairness arising from the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, whereby the applicant is entitled to legal representation as a result of unproven allegations, while the respondent is not. In this case, the fact that one party had no legal advice at any stage was critical to the outcome.”

In that case, the court’s guard was clearly down. That case, sadly, was not exceptional.

There are procedural checks and balances which should mitigate risk. The accused should have a further hearing listed where there is the opportunity to defend themselves. They should be notified of, and have sight of all evidence which was put before the judge when the order was made. They should have the opportunity to file their own evidence. Sadly, such procedures are not always followed. This compounds the injustice caused by one party being represented while the accused is often not.

In B v A [2012] EWHC 3127 (Fam), Charles J states:

“11. Both Theis J and I (in B Borough Council v S) point out in restrained terms that the principles and  procedures in respect of without notice applications that are clearly established by authority are regularly not followed in the Family Division.

12. This case provides an example of this.  To my mind, this regular and flagrant failure by many practitioners and judges is contrary to the public interest.  I, and some of the other judges of the Division, try to bring about necessary and much needed changes when dealing with without notice applications (particularly in the Applications Court).  But sadly, this case is a clear demonstration that we have not succeeded and that a number of our colleagues do not take the same approach.  So the serious failings are endemic amongst many family practitioners and judges who have been family practitioners.”

The frustration held by some campaigning groups is acknowledged and shared among senior judiciary.

Difficulty for the unrepresented accused comes from a lack of knowledge as to whether the correct procedure has been followed by the court (and/or applicant and their legal representatives). This inevitably interferes with their defending against the order due to their ignorance of procedural irregularity. While instances of procedural unfairness/irregularity do result in successful appeal, a litigant-in-person is often oblivious to the grounds which may exist in their case. Not so much ‘ignorance is no defense’ but ‘ignorance prevents defense’.

Many of these cases are heard in the lower courts where knowledge of correct process can be lacking. Additionally, we see growing instances of complex cases being handed down to magistrates who lack the experience and training of more senior judges. Such occurrences are likely to become more common-place as a result of court closures, austerity and cuts. Unless there is radical change, or legal aid awarded to the accused as well as the accuser (highly unlikely in the current political climate), it is for the litigant-in-person, whether a plumber, cab driver, hairdresser or unemployed to get to grips with complex areas of law when unable to afford legal assistance. In such circumstances, it’s impossible to see how justice in England and Wales is compliant with the human rights act and a right to a fair hearing.

There has been an ‘explosion’ in the number of non-molestation orders being made by the court since legal aid was limited to cases involving domestic violence. The Daily Mail picked up on the subject of a series of articles we ran last year… see ‘Daily Mail: Huge Rise in DV Claims after Legal Aid cuts‘.

To help in these cases, we have a new section in our web site, under our Case Law Menu, entitled Without Notice And Non-Molestation Order Case Law. The purpose is to inform both sides involved in these proceedings as to the correct procedure which should be followed by both the court and applicant in respect of without notice applications for injunctive orders. We will be expanding upon this section in the coming weeks, and also providing a dedicated guide and support tools. In the meantime, we have also made reference in that section to rules related to applications for these types of order (made under Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996).

You may also wish to refer to our existing guides on Domestic Violence, Non Molestation Orders, Occupation Orders, Undertakings, False Allegations and our Occupation Order Case Law Menu.

We also recommend you pay particular attention to paragraphs 13 to 16 of KY v DD [2011] EWHC 1277 which is included in our new section.


New interim regulations related to domestic violence and evidence for legal aid


Evidence is required to help secure legal aid funding for victims of domestic violence in private family proceedings. Interim changes are currently being introduced to regulations which relate to this evidence, pending a final decision by the Government (so there may be further changes). These interim regulations include:

  • The time limit for the validity of evidence related to domestic violence being increased from two years to five years (changed on 25th April 2016);
  • A new category, ‘Financial Abuse’ is added (changed on 25th April 2016);
  • Violent offenders orders are included as an accepted form of evidence (changed on 25th April 2016);
  • Female genital mutilation protection orders are included as an accepted form of evidence (being introduced on 16th May 2016).

Changes are introduced via regulation 2(2) and 3 of the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 concerning evidence which must be provided to help secure civil legal aid funding where domestic violence is alleged. The wording for the new regulations are provided below:

(2) For the purpose of paragraph (1), the evidence of domestic violence or risk of domestic violence must be provided in one or more of the following forms—

(a) a relevant unspent conviction for a domestic violence offence;

(b) a relevant police caution for a domestic violence offence given within the sixty month period immediately preceding the date of the application for civil legal services;

(c) evidence of relevant criminal proceedings for a domestic violence offence which have not concluded;

(d) a relevant protective injunction which is in force or which was granted within the sixty month period immediately preceding the date of the application for civil legal services;

(e) an undertaking given in England and Wales under section 46 or 63E of the Family Law Act 1996(2) (or given in Scotland or Northern Ireland in place of a protective injunction)—

(i) by the individual (“B”) with whom the applicant for civil legal services (“A”) was in a family relationship giving rise to the need for the civil legal services which are the subject of the application; and
(ii) within the sixty month period immediately preceding the date of the application for civil legal services,

provided that a cross-undertaking was not given by A;

(ea) evidence that B is on relevant police bail for a domestic violence offence;

(eb) a relevant conviction for a domestic violence offence where B was convicted of that offence within the sixty month period immediately preceding the date of the application for civil legal services;

(f) a letter from any person who is a member of a multi-agency risk assessment conference confirming that—

(i) A was referred to the conference as a victim of domestic violence; and

(ii) the conference has, within the sixty month period immediately preceding the date of the application for civil legal services, put in place a plan to protect A from a risk of harm by B;

(g) a copy of a finding of fact, made in proceedings in the United Kingdom within the sixty month period immediately preceding the date of the application for civil legal services, that there has been domestic violence by B giving rise to a risk of harm to A;

(h) a letter or report from a health professional who has access to the medical records of A confirming that that professional, or another health professional—

(i) has examined A in person within the sixty month period immediately preceding the date of the application for civil legal service; and

(ii) was satisfied following that examination that A had injuries or a condition consistent with those of a victim of domestic violence;

(i) a letter from a social services department in England or Wales (or its equivalent in Scotland or Northern Ireland) confirming that, within the sixty month period immediately preceding the date of the application, A was assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence by B (or a copy of that assessment);

(j) a letter or report from a domestic violence support organisation in the United Kingdom confirming—

(i) that within the sixty month period immediately preceding the date of the application for civil legal services, A had been accommodated in a refuge;

(ii) the dates on which A was admitted to and, where relevant, left the refuge; and

(iii) that A was admitted to the refuge because of allegations by A of domestic violence;

(k) a letter or report from a domestic violence support organisation in the United Kingdom confirming—

(i) that A was, within the sixty month period immediately preceding the date of the application for civil legal services, refused admission to a refuge, on account of there being insufficient accommodation available in the refuge; and
(ii) the date on which A was refused admission to the refuge;

(l) a letter or report from—

(i) the person to whom the referral described below was made;

(ii) the health professional who made the referral described below; or

(iii) a health professional who has access to the medical records of A,

confirming that there was, within the sixty month period immediately preceding the date of the application for civil legal services, a referral by a health professional of A to a person who provides specialist support or assistance for victims of, or those at risk of, domestic violence;

(m) a relevant domestic violence protection notice issued under section 24 of the Crime and Security Act 2010(3), or a relevant domestic violence protection order made under section 28 of that Act, against B within the sixty month period immediately preceding the date of the application for civil legal services;

(n) evidence of a relevant court order binding over B in connection with a domestic violence offence, which is in force or which was granted within the sixty month period immediately preceding the date of application for civil legal services;

(o) evidence which the Director is satisfied demonstrates that A has been, or is at risk of being, the victim of domestic violence by B in the form of abuse which relates to financial matters, where that evidence dates within the sixty month period immediately preceding the date of, or is dated on the date of, the application for civil legal services.”.

 (3) In regulation 33(3) (definitions)(4), in the definition of “protective injunction”, after sub-paragraph (i) insert—

 “(j) a female genital mutilation protection order under paragraph 1 or 18 of Schedule 2 to the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003(5);

(k) a violent offender order within the meaning of section 98 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008(6);”.



The McKenzie Friend Issue


Last weekend I spoke at a charity event on common failings in intractable contact disputes. Inevitably, the question arose about thoughts on the judicial led consultation on McKenzie Friends. What were my thoughts?

For those unaware, there is a consultation underway to look at whether McKenzie Friends should be regulated, insured and paid. Continue reading The McKenzie Friend Issue


LIP Friendly Family Law Orders – Content and Resources


A few days ago I shared an update that the President of the Family Court has announced the production of draft family law orders better suited to Litigants-in-Person (parents who represent themselves in court). The intentions are positive and include better consistency across the court service and wording aimed at the non-technical.

Hopefully the new judicial templates will cut down on some of the poor practice we see, including filing dates being left off directions, and warning notices being omitted (despite their inclusion being a statutory requirement).

The President, in his announcement, seeks to address the resistance which exists to change, which included complaints that previous draft court orders issued in early 2014 were apparently too difficult for some to use.  Others complained that the standard drafts were too long. As mentioned above, trusting people to include the right wording in orders is fine in theory, but in practice this resulted in mistakes being made and omissions. To help ease in the change, the President has also had prepared a tick list of potential order wording which allows a judge/court staff to quickly select the wording they wish included in the order.

The President’s announcement does miss something though. It’s not uncommon for McKenzie Friends to be asked to draft court orders. Where the judge regularly sees the McKenzie Friend in court, and is confident in their ability, this happens sometimes even when the other party is represented (yes, really!).

All well and good to make the draft order wording available within the court service, and widening publication to the Bar and Law Society, but what about McKenzie Friends?

This is where we step in. The draft order wording is now available within our Draft Court Orders section of our Family Law App. The ‘tick list’ wording can be downloaded as a PDF and is also available via the link picture below:



Judicial Judgment ‘Wholly Lacking’ in Intractable Contact Cases


F (Children) [2015] EWCA Civ 1315 is yet another case involving alienation where the handling of the case by the lower court was ‘wholly inadequate‘. Not my opinion (actually it is, and I agree…), but that of the Lords Justice who heard the appeal.

The case highlights the failings which are increasingly commonplace in the lower courts. The child has been poisoned by one parent against the other yet the court grants excessive weight to the child’s wishes and feelings at the cost of their welfare needs, and fails to address the issue of the alienating parent’s behaviour. The child is left subject to continued emotional abuse and the parent who sought the court’s help is utterly failed. Months elapse due to the court’s failure to get a grip and problems become entrenched. Continue reading Judicial Judgment ‘Wholly Lacking’ in Intractable Contact Cases


Supporting the Children’s Society Seriously Awkward Campaign


We’ve just had a request to share details of the Children’s Society Seriously Awkward Campaign.

The Children’s Society are looking to strengthen child protection laws to better safeguard 16-17 year olds from sexual exploitation and abuse. The Children’s Society is recommending:

  • The Government must give police the same tools to intervene when a 16 or 17 year old is being targeted and groomed for exploitation as younger children.
  • Clear guidance must be put in place so professionals such as police, teachers, social workers and NHS staff can all identify a 16 or 17 year old as a victim of sexual exploitation and work together to put support and protection in place.
  • Older teenagers who experience this awful trauma must receive urgent mental health support so they can stay safe and rebuild their lives.

Details concerning the campaign can be found via the link below:

Old Enough to Know Better?

Please support the campaign. Follow the link below which tells you how:

Seriously Awkward Campaign


Where have all the parents gone?


The Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service announced this week that litigants-in-person “have not actually increased the court budget or the demands on the court”.  Some have suggested more unrepresented people have not lengthened proceedings as a whole.

I thought I’d have a look at the actual statistics and contemplate what that means for child welfare. Continue reading Where have all the parents gone?