Parental Alienation and Abduction

Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Child Abduction may seem like extreme reactions to family breakdown, these situations arise more commonly than one might assume. In 2011 alone, parental abduction charity Reunite handled 512 cases, and state that this number is rising steadily. 

Many parents who decide to divorce or who are contemplating divorce worry about the impact that this will have upon their children. This is a very understandable concern for parents, who are often faced with very negative images of divorce in the media. Concerns about how their children will be impacted can leave many parents feeling guilty about the difficult decision that they have made regarding their marriage.

The good news is that if parents deal with matters appropriately research shows that their children should not be negatively impacted by divorce.

Many parents ask for guidance on how to deal with this issue. There are some very useful books, such as “Parenting Apart” by Christina McGhee, which offers a very helpful guide to how separating parents can raise happy and secure children.

Parents who are getting divorced are often going through an emotionally difficult time themselves. If they are struggling to deal with the breakdown of their relationship, they are likely to struggle to help their children deal with the divorce. It is therefore important that parents have good support and obtain professional help from their GP or a counsellor if necessary. If the parents can cope, there is a good chance that their children will too.

Whilst communication between divorcing couples can understandably be difficult, it is important that parents do their best to put their differences aside when it comes to dealing with their children. The one thing that most divorcing parents agree on is that they want what is best for their children. It is important to think about how your relationship with your partner can affect your children during a divorce or separation. There are some ways you can help to reduce the negative impact on any child involved:

·         Always remember to put the needs of the child before your own.

·         Don’t argue with or be critical of the other parent in front of your child.

·         Don’t treat your child like an adult; they  are not equipped to  provide you with  emotional support.

·         Be consistent in your discipline and parenting methods Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is recognised by many mental health professionals and organisations as a condition detrimental to the mental wellbeing of a child and their family members. PAS is said to occur when one parent (either consciously or subconsciously) alienates their offspring from the other parent (typically, the parent they do not live with) following divorce or separation. The child in question will come to express a severe dislike or hatred for the non-resident parent without justifiable reason. These ill feelings often mirror those of the resident parent, who influences the child into holding these feelings and encourages them whenever possible. The child may suddenly switch from feelings of love or ambivalence towards both parents, to hatred of the targeted parent and siding unconditionally with the resident parent, mimicking their views/opinions. Parents may not be aware that they are engaging in damaging behaviours, or indeed that their behaviour could be harmful to their child/children. Children suffering from PAS may exhibit the following behaviours:


·         Sudden disinterest in visiting or contacting the targeted parent

·         Holding irrational or delusional beliefs, particularly around the targeted parent

·         Reasons for disinterest in targeted parent tied in with beliefs of alienating parent

·         Inability to forgive parent for past mistakes – real or imagined

·         Difficulty distinguishing between memories and what they have been told

·         No feelings of guilt towards targeted parent

Typical signs of PAS may be difficult to pinpoint, as it can be hard to know whether the child is exhibiting symptoms or simply expressing genuine opinion.

There are indicators that parental alienation tactics are being used, either by oneself or by an ex-partner. These can include:

·         Supporting the child’s disinterest or refusal to maintain contact with the targeted parent even though the court has not empowered either party to do so.

·         Giving the child intimate knowledge of the divorce proceedings or marital problems.

·         False allegations of violence, sexual abuse or substance abuse against the targeted parent.

·         Encouraging the child’s negative emotions or behaviour towards the other parent.

·         Asking the child or children to choose one parent over the other.

·         Refusal to deviate from agreed visiting times even when there is good reason to.

·         Making the child or children feel guilt for having positive experiences with the targeted parent.

Long term effects:

Often the child in question has been led to believe that they have been rejected by the targeted parent; they believe that the parent does not love or want them, and reject them in return. Naturally this can be damaging to their mental health and wellbeing, causing them unnecessary pain and distress.

Parental Child Abduction:

Parental Child Abduction can occur when one parent removes a child (under the age of 16) from their country of residence without the consent of the other parent. This can be a real danger for those children who may have dual nationalities; as one parent may believe that the child should be brought up in their country of origin rather than that of the other parent. They may take drastic measures to achieve this. Other family members can also be involved in child abduction. When Parental Child Abduction is committed, depending on the country they are taken to, it can be difficult to retrieve them safely or quickly. If the country is a signatory to the Hague Convention or Brussels II regulation, it is presumed that the country that the child was removed from should decide where the child should reside. They will therefore usually order that the child be returned to that country.

Preventing Child Abduction.

If you are concerned that a child in your family is in danger of being removed from the country without your agreement, you must act quickly to prevent this from happening; once a child has been removed from its country of residence, it can be a very complicated process to successfully bring them back. It is much better to prevent the abduction from taking place so you should take urgent advice from a solicitor with expertise in the area of child abduction as soon as you suspect this might occur. They can provide more information about these and other steps you can take.

Preventative measures against Parental Child Abduction:

·         Surrender of passports of either the parent or child; by mutual agreement or court order.

·         Restrictions on contact – contact may be supervised or take place within certain locations.

·         Notifying the Passport Agency, Police, Embassies, ports and airports that there is an abduction risk for the child/children in question.

·         Court orders preventing removal, bonds or charges over property as security against the child (if the child is removed from the country these are forfeited).

What can I do if my child is abducted from the UK?

You should contact a specialist family law solicitor who has experience of child abduction cases as this is a complicated area of law. An urgent court application may be required either in this country, the country to where the child has been taken or both. The way in which this is done and the law that applies, varies between countries. Time is always of the essence. The quicker you act the more likely you are to succeed in securing the return of the child.

Abduction to a Brussels II or Hague Convention Country.

To begin the process of returning the abducted child, an application needs to be made through the Central Authority of the country the child has been taken to. If a child has been taken to a state which is signed up to either the Brussels II regulation or the Hague Convention, it is presumed that the child shall be returned providing the application is made within the year. There are few defences one can put forward to combat the return of the abducted child to their country of residence, however if a foreign court does rule that the child should not be returned to the UK, it is possible to ask the English courts to review this decision.

Abduction to a non-Hague Country.

If a child is taken to a state which is not party to either of the main conventions above, the procedure is different and can become a drawn-out process. The considerations the courts take into account differ between countries, as does the strength of any presumption that the child should be returned to England for their future to be decided by the British courts.

Specific Protocols.

Some countries, such as Pakistan, are not signatories to the main provisions on child abduction, such as the Hague Convention, but do have agreement with the UK in place setting out the considerations which will apply in such cases, and making provision for judicial co-operation between the two countries.

Whilst Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Child Abduction may seem like extreme reactions to family breakdown, these situations arise more commonly than one might assume. In 2011 alone, parental abduction charity Reunite handled 512 cases, and state that this number is rising steadily each year. For more information, help or support you can contact Reunite or the Foreign Office (see Embassy and Consular offices and Commonwealth High Commission and Consular Offices in our service directory on the task bar above).

SOURCE: Pannone Solicitors contact them through our Service Directory – Solicitors - Manchester.

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