Parental Alienation and Reform – Asking the Right Questions


It was pleasant to read Anthony Douglas, Chief Executive of CAFCASS, acknowledging that parental alienation was a form of child abuse in this week’s Telegraph. Pleasant… although being honest the main emotion was irritation, as I read an article which did little and said less. Catch up! Alienation is recognised… this isn’t news. If you want a news piece, ask what’s being done about it?

Parental alienation is rarely a disease which strikes without warning. It’s an administered poison, which eats away at the child’s view of the world. As with any poisoning, earlier diagnosis, intervention and prevention presents the best hope of cure. Failing this, the child gets more ill and future interventions become less likely to succeed. What we often see is the judicial ‘doctor’, who has had the child as his patient for months or years blame the parent for the poisoning while abrogating himself of relationship deaths by ignoring his failure to diagnose and treat. For a classic example, read this where the President of the Family Court does this himself.

Remember the poisoning scene in the film Sixth Sense… Anthony Douglas recognises that parents are putting bleach into their children’s drinks. Bravo. This rather begs the question of what he and the President of the Family Court are doing to improve outcomes for the affected children, having responsibility for their respective organisations and child welfare. We’re well past the days when the senior courts didn’t accept parental alienation as a factor in intractable contact disputes. There’s case law confirming it can cause significant harm to a child. Training courses within the British Psychological Society (BPS) and judgments recognising the court’s failures. Click the links… read them.

It should come as no surprise whatsoever that Anthony Douglas and Sir James Munby (President of the Family Court) know very well what the problems are. Perhaps the journalist should be asking them what steps they’re taking to improve case management and judicial training to help prevent such harm being caused to children? In fairness to Anthony Douglas, I’ve seen far more improvement in CAFCASS reports in recent years than I have in judicial case management in cases involving alienation. Those improvements though, aren’t universal.

In September 2015 I was asked to write a report by a charity setting out the problems in intractable contact dispute and parental alienation cases. I know Sir James Munby has it, charity representatives met him to discuss the contents. I understand there wasn’t much disagreement about the issues when the report was discussed. You can read the report yourself… here. The Telegraph’s reported idea to have a panel of experts advise the courts and propose more effective interventions isn’t a new thing. In my report, I made the same suggestion, proposing Dr Kirk Weir, Dr Mark Berelowitz and Dr Sue Whitcombe (Dr Whitcombe is currently running the BPS training courses on understanding, intervention and treatment of parental alienation).

In February 2016, a number of the problems my report listed were the subject of judicial acknowledgment in F (Children) [2015] EWCA Civ 1315. Be assured, the problems are known beyond Munby. How many years does it take to turn recognition of a problem to improvement in case management? Case law is all well and good, but unless the lower courts are aware of it, and the guidance it contains, what benefit? How many litigants-in-person know how to present it, if they’re even aware it exists themselves.

Sorry to say that the Telegraph’s article didn’t fill me with hope. It underlined to me that the problems are well know, but there’s a lack of capability, resource or motivation to address them. Perhaps the very structure of the Family Court and Family Justice system prevents professional management of such cases due to poor communication and training? Does individual judicial discretion prevent more professional process being accepted? Does convention trump welfare or is there another reason the same old tired mistakes are made again and again? These are questions I’d like to see posed in the Telegraph… and some answers too.


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.


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


Proposals for the Reform of Intractable Contact Dispute Law


paper2Last September I had the opportunity to write a paper on the reform of private family law and specifically related to contact enforcement. The paper was presented to Sir James Munby, President of the Family Court, by officers of Families Need Fathers who had been offered a continuing dialogue by him following his presentation to the charity AGM in 2014. A follow-up meeting is diarised to discuss the paper’s contents and proposals.

Within the paper, the guiding principles for the proposals were “what is practical, realistic and has a reasonable chance of being taken forward”.

Continue reading Proposals for the Reform of Intractable Contact Dispute Law


Failings in Intractable Contact Cases Continue


When intractable contact dispute cases fail to be resolved there are common reasons, and ones which involve how the cases are managed by the court and professionals involved in proceedings. Some of those cases are salvageable, while for others the long length of proceedings acts as a bar to the court entertaining a different approach.

My criticism isn’t universal and I acknowledge there are experienced and highly capable judges and welfare officers. It’s that very observation which sees me compare what, in case management terms, is the good, the bad and the ugly (one movie we didn’t see this Christmas). Sadly, justice and positive outcomes remain reliant on the quality and experience of the individuals involved, with a lack of process and poor adherence to what process exists exacerbating problems. The appeal system alone is an inadequate means of quality control to identify poor practice and capability.

Rather than intractable contact disputes being complex, these are often cases made complex by poor investigation, inadequate welfare analysis and failures to apply and carry through strategies from an early stage. These are common reasons for failure, and the saddest thing of all is that none of these should come as a surprise. Continue reading Failings in Intractable Contact Cases Continue


Alienation, Strategies and Pessimism


There are strategies which aid in successful resolution of cases involving implacable hostility and children being cognitively manipulated to oppose contact (commonly referred to as parental alienation). While there is case law to support these strategies, they’re not rocket science (but just because they’re common-sense doesn’t mean they don’t sometimes need spelling out): Continue reading Alienation, Strategies and Pessimism


Parental alienation counsellor Karen Woodall sanctioned for malpractice


The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) has published findings of professional malpractice in respect of Karen Woodall, a therapist specialising in work with families where parental alienation is a factor. The BACP is the UK’s largest professional body representing 40,000 counsellor/therapist members.

Parts of the complaint (upheld) relate to Ms Woodall providing a written assessment on the family including opinion that the child ‘is suffering from…’ and ‘I make this diagnosis…’ when she had not in fact met the child at that time. Other findings relate to a lack of clarity in respect of fees and the nature of services offered. Continue reading Parental alienation counsellor Karen Woodall sanctioned for malpractice


Re H-B [2015] EWCA Civ 389 – Disagreeing with Black LJ and Munby


It’s rare that I disagree with a judgment from the President of the Family Court or Lady Justice Black. This however is one such occasion where I feel their judgment is wide of the mark. There are some fundamental failures in the management of this parental alienation case. Continue reading Re H-B [2015] EWCA Civ 389 – Disagreeing with Black LJ and Munby


Welcome to our new website


As more and more people move to accessing online content via smartphones and tablets, a change to a very mobile friendly format was necessary. The new site operates seamlessly across all platforms and all devices. Not just improved accessibility, but we’ve plenty of new content for you!

Our Free Family Law Appflapplaptop

Yes, it’s still there. Now running to over 1,500,000 words of content, and process mapping family law into a series of parent friendly, step-by-step guides. There is no similar resource available, and nothing else as detailed, aimed at helping parents navigate the separation process when disputes arise. Of course, it’s free.

Recent additions include:

We’re currently developing new content branching out into more specialist areas. Ones being developed include guides on wardship, acquisition of parental responsibility for non-biological parents (including parents in LGBT relationships), and guides on appeal. These will be published over the coming months. We already provide content in many specialist areas, including leave to remove, parental alienation and others. Our family law app will continue to grow…. filling the void left by legal aid cuts.

NEW – Video Guidesvideo2

Our first video guide helps you get the most out of our free Family Law App. We show you three different ways to search for information, give you a brief run through of features.

We Show You How To Embed our App on Your Site

If you have your own web site helping parents, are an individual, charity or organisation, you can now easily embed our app on one of your web pages. No more sending visitors to other web sites. No expensive development costs. No charge at all! Provide your visitors with top quality information, today!

Incorporated Blog

Our blog has moved from and is now incorporated within our main site. We have transferred a number of previous articles and will be adding more in the coming weeks and months. Share articles easily on social media, and rate them if you wish.

NEW – Newsletter

If you’d like monthly updates from us regarding developments in private family law, notifications of important new judgments, and details of new content, please sign up to our free electronic newsletter. Sign up on our blog pages. Your email will only be used to send the newsletter to you, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

NEW – Online Quizzesquiz

We’ve five family law quizzes published so far, to test your knowledge, and three available to download. Challenge your friends and colleagues. Use them to identify gaps in your knowledge, while using our guides for research. Print versions of three quizzes (including separate answer sheets with reference notes) are available for students, charity staff and volunteers to use at meetings where the internet may not be available.

Quizzes will be added to and change periodically.

Relocation Campaign

The Relocation Campaign website is to close (links on that site now don’t work, as we took down a substantial amount of old content when putting up this new site). We’ve moved the history of this campaign to our About Us section and you can read the history of the Relocation Campaign here.

Our Thanks

Our sincere thanks to Reggio Blackwell of for his wonderful owls. Reggio is a talented, Chicago based artist, art lecturer, and graphic design consultant for the computer gaming industry. Family Law can be intimidating for those new to the legal system, and we approached Reggio as we wanted graphics which made family law more approachable and a little less intimidating. His owls lighten things a little. Our thanks to Thomas Bodimer and Neil Wilson for late night testing of quizzes and pages across various media platforms, and identifying broken links during the transfer process. Thanks too to Steve Roberts for his design assistance.


Parental Alienation – The Need for Consistency


The Telegraph today ran an article on parental alienation headlined “We must stop turning children against divorced fathers“.

It’s an area of interest for me, having worked on numerous cases where parental alienation was a factor, and having seen slow change in the courts on how parental alienation is considered and approached. Continue reading Parental Alienation – The Need for Consistency