I was inspired to write this article following my own reading of Dr Childress’ latest blog entitled The Door of Empathy.

In this article of his, Childress explores the behaviour that an alienated child expresses when required simply to survive. In further understanding this, the targeted parent is more able to understand the importance of empathy and provide it for the child.

However, as Childress states:

“…not empathy for the pathology. The pathology is a delusion…instead…a resonant empathy for the authentic child alive beneath the pathology.  An empathy that draws forth this authentic child, because we, through our empathy, we see the authentic child – and the child sees their own self-authenticity reflected in our empathy.

(Childress, 2019)

Childress goes on to discuss the importance of emotional self-regulation for a targeted parent in displaying empathy for the deluded child.

It is this last point that prompted me to reflect on my numerous misadventures with the evil that is parental alienation over the last thirty months.

In particular, it prompted me to reflect on the unreasonable expectations placed on targeted parents by the various stakeholders and professionals within the family justice system.

Targeted parents start their navigation through the family justice system already at an incredibly disadvantaged position. In addition to this, they are expected to have and show the patience of a Saint, the virtues of Aristotle, the mental strength of a mighty warrior and the financial resources of a millionaire.

And what do the various professionals expect of the alienating parent, who holds all the cards? In my experience: very little. Below are some anecdotal examples of what several professionals have expected of the alienator and I – the targeted parent – over the last thirty months.

Cafcass identified in their very first Case Analysis that the other (resident) parent was identified as exposing the children to emotional harm:

“being of the utmost importance that this identification of such emotional harm is not allowed to let slide along as the children will continue to come to more emotional harm.”

(Cafcass, 2016)

It was in the following year that, despite claims to the contrary, Cafcass clearly allowed my case to slide along. So, I put in a complaint against them in regards to what I perceived as their mismanagement of my case, and failure to safeguard my children from emotional harm. The response to my complaint was a telephone call from a Cafcass Service Manager, which I fortunately managed to record. The manager informed me, in a somewhat blasé manner, that “it’s difficult to know what to do when the damage has already been done” [to the children]. A remarkable, yet open statement of incompetence. And yet, nothing came of my complaint.

My ongoing concerns were further exacerbated by the following alarming statement of fact from another member of management within Cafcass: “Yes, I agree, btg-dad, this system is flawed.” I was also fortunate enough to take an audio recording of this telephone conversation. I can only suggest the manager made a Freudian slip during the challenging questions I posed to him.

Several months later into the case I encountered a social worker employed by the local Children’s Services. When I made a statement that the long-term aim for my children was to co-parent on a 50/50 basis with the other parent, she assertively replied “that’s an unreasonable expectation.” I queried her arguably biased, dismissive response, only to be told, “that is how it is!”

A District Judge once ordered the other parent to present me in a positive light in the eyes of the children, with immediate effect. She has never done this and continues to disobey his direction. Despite being aware, the Judge has taken no further action.

The structure of the family justice system does not permit complaints against judges. I have wondered on numerous occasions of sending my story to the press, be it local or national. However, disclosing any details of the case would place me in contempt of court. Ironic, and tragic.

At the risk of appearing naive, one would expect higher morals of such professionals, particularly those who work in the family court.

How is it that so many professionals within a flawed system are allowed to make such reckless decisions regarding these vulnerable children that are dragged through courts?

The following statistics show clear evidence of the family justice system that continues to fail in its remit to provide the best outcome for children, post-separation:

  • 96% of all child arrangements order applications are made by fathers (University of Warwick, UK).
  • 97% of residencies are given to mothers (University of East Anglia, UK).
  • 50% of court orders are broken (University of East Anglia, UK).
  • Just 1.2% of applications for enforcement of court orders are successful (Ministry of Justice, UK).

My only attempt at an explanation for the way system currently works – or doesn’t work – is the proverb of the Three Wise Monkeys. The image and proverb used in Western culture to refer to a lack of moral responsibility on the part of people who refuse to observe standards of honesty or integrity. People that simply look the other way, or feign ignorance.

I have no other explanation for the complete lack of moral fibre these people have.

“See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” Origin of proverb unknown.



This post was prompted by the tragic circumstances of one of many alienated parents I come across their three-year battle to have a relationship with their children.


Joe* had a harrowing time of navigating his way through the family justice system simply to have a healthy and loving relationship with his children, as it had been prior to separating from their mother. His story is a somewhat typical example of unrecognised, mismanaged parental alienation. At the heart of this were his children being left open to significant emotional harm by a flawed system.

Joe’s relationship ended with his partner three years ago. She immediately made false, unsubstantiated historical allegations that Joe had physically and emotionally abused her and the children. As a result, Cafcass got involved and secured an order for no contact between Joe and his children while these claims of harm were investigated. It took three months to reach the conclusion that Joe did not pose any safeguarding issues regarding his children.

However, during this time, his ex-partner – the ‘resident parent’ – had taken the opportunity afforded by the slow progress made by Cafcass to alienate Joe’s children against him.

The Cafcass Case Manager at the time composed a report which found that the ‘resident parent’ was exhibiting “alienating behaviours.” Furthermore, the children were being exposed to emotional abuse, and that it needed to stop.

However, as the case continued, Cafcass were unable to provide any effective means to stop the harm being inflicted on the children, despite their own findings. Quite remarkably, rather than taking any pro-active approach to minimise the abuse, Cafcass went into great detail outlining the long-term detrimental effects on the children should the abuse be allowed to continue.

It took a whole year for a psychological report to be requested and the whole family was assessed over a period of several months.

The report was a damning indictment of the resident parent’s emotional abuse of the children. The clinical psychologist’s findings were that the children were being exposed to significant emotional harm in the toxic home environment with Joe’s ex-partner. The psychologist made reference to the term ‘significant emotional harm’ no less than seven times in the report.

The psychologist also stated that the resident parent presented with personality traits indicative of a Cluster A personality disorder**. As such, there was little evidence of the abusive parent being willing or able to change. Cafcass failed to understand this in the context of mental health and parental alienation.

Children’s Services became involved for a further year. They wrote several reports which minimised the findings of the clinical psychologist and came to the conclusion that the children did not meet the criteria that would identify them as being exposed to significant emotional harm. Their findings were that the children were in “emotional turmoil.”


Let’s explore this by highlight the following:

We have three parties:

  • Cafcass
  • Children’s Services
  • Clinical Psychologist

Each party has different parameters when it comes to quantifying the level of harm being inflicted on children. They also have different thresholds regarding what they deem as being labelled as emotional abuse. Furthermore, they each have their own approach when assessing and classifying different levels or severity of “harm”.

The result, in Joe’s case, is that we ended up with three different findings, each from a different clinician or service.

Cafcass

The role of this government body is to promote the welfare of children and families involved in family court.

Cafcass identified that Joe’s children as being exposed to ‘alienating behaviours’ and ‘emotional harm’. (Since their initial assessment, they also stated that Joe’s case is in fact one of parental alienation).

Psychological Assessment

A psychological assessment is a court ordered, clinical diagnostic, and a request for one is informed only by the evidence available to the court at the time. Such requests are made if the court believes it is in its best interests to gain further information from a qualified professional.

The findings detailed in Joe’s case were that the children had been exposed to ongoing significant emotional harm. It also detailed that there appeared to be little or no evidence of the abusive parent changing their behaviour.

Children’s Services

The role of Children’s Service is to be responsible for supporting and protecting vulnerable children.

As stated above the findings from Children’s Service is that the children are only experiencing emotional turmoil, but not were not victims of “abuse.” This conclusion was reached despite various concerns raised by the two previous assessments.

Joe has since told me that Children’s Services say they are not able to intervene unless the children start to present with the following risky behaviours: self-harm; alcohol/substance misuse; any identification of physical or sexual harm.

Children’s Services have also told Joe that due to his absence, and their ongoing emotional turmoil, the children will remain at high risk of vulnerability to abuse. However, they will wait for signs of abuse to present themselves before they intervene.

To conclude, from what I know of the numerous cases of miscarriages of justice within the family court, there appears to be no pro-active, early intervention, or preventative approaches for child abuse being applied by any of the various parties that are involved in such cases. Therefore, we currently have a Family Justice System that knowingly fails to safeguard our children.


*Names have been changed for confidentiality.

**[Definition of Cluster A personality disorder]


[The following is an anonymised experience contributed by an alienated parent. This yet again highlights the flawed system that is the Family Justice System.] 

Approximately a week ago I emailed the Senior Service Manager of my regional Cafcass Office. I asked him three or four questions by email. By far the simplest question I asked was the following:

“Is it really fair, ethical and morally right for my # year old daughter to be prevented from seeing me?”

The manager’s response was “there are complex dynamics at play, which professionals and the Judge have commented on.”

I then replied via email with the following response:

“This is not a competency based question. It is an ethics based question. I have the right to have an honest answer to this question, from the very organisation who is responsible for the well-being of my children while they go through the family court process.

It should not take you a whole day to answer this very simple question. It is either a yes or no. I can not make it any simpler for you to answer.

Is it really fair, ethical and morally right for my # year old daughter to be prevented from seeing me? Yes or no?”

At time of writing I have still not received a response to this very simple question. The lack of response to such a simple question, actually raises the following questions regarding Cafcass’ approach to the safeguarding of children that find themselves going through the Family Justice System.

  • The initial answer to the question (there are complex dynamics at play, which professionals and the Judge have commented on) was clearly avoidant. Why would such an organisation avoid answering such a simple question? What are they avoiding?
  • The above mentioned Senior Service Manager is also rather astoundingly a member of the local Safeguarding Children Board. So as a professional surely the answering of such a ethics based question should be driven by the individual’s own values and ethics? Not any protection of his professional reputation within a flawed system, where the toxic organisational culture clearly does not appreciate the disclosing of any truth?
  • Why are Cafcass not committed to the effective safeguarding of children going through family court?
  • Is it that Cafcass do not want to be held accountable for complex cases such as parental alienation?

So if anyone has any ideas or questions regarding my above points please feel free to leave your comments below.

Thank you.


Regarding the raising of awareness of parental alienation I believe change is on the horizon. I am not naive enough to believe it will happen overnight. However, very much like the general public’s past lack of understanding of mental health, parental alienation is now starting on that same journey.

Last week parental alienation was reported on the BBC national news here in the UK.

Understandably this was shared across social media by the thousands upon thousands of alienated parents out there. It felt to me that the online anti-parental alienation community shared it with a somewhat cautionary sense of relief; that as much as we are sill denied reform, finally something so unjust as parental alienation is now being discussed on prime time national news here in the UK.

On the same day as the above reporting, the BBC also published the following related article on their BBC News website written by their Education Editor Branwen Jeffreys; When a Child Won’t See One Parent.

In her article Jeffreys explores the nature of parental alienation, all be it briefly, but at least, once again this form of abuse is on it’s way to reaching the attention of a much wider audience.

The article finishes with comments from Professor Liz Trinder, from the University of Exeter. Trinder makes the statement “the idea of parental alienation as a pattern of behaviours needs to be treated carefully, because the courts have a duty to consider the child’s best interests.”

Trinder then goes on to state “the problem with the alienation concept is that if your premise is the child has been brainwashed, it means you can’t trust what the child is saying to the court. So if you make an accusation of alienation it almost automatically casts suspicion on anything the child might say.” Even though Trinder appears to be coming from a cautionary perspective, she has clearly and unintentionally hit the nail on its head when she states “it almost automatically casts suspicion on anything the child might say.”

Anyone that knows anything about parental alienation knows that children are simply paraphrasing the alienating parent regarding their expression of negative views of the rejected parent. We all know alienated children have been coached and groomed into hating the other parent. Trinder conveniently chooses to omit that statistically children do not naturally reject a parent or care-giver. Even in cases of where the child is aware of the abuse, children remain attached to that parent. Children are hard-wired to remain attached to their parent(s).

In the above news report footage, Sarah Parsons (Principal Social Worker, Cafcass) makes the following statement “their [the affected children] only way of staying safe is to side with one parent and reject the other.” This view from Parsons, even by Cafcass’ standards is clearly the opposite view of Trinder’s regarding her call for services to be cautious with potential cases of parental alienation.

On 5th February 2018 Martin Daubney wrote an article entitled UK Dads are being airbrushed out of existence by family courts favouring and bankrolling Mums for the i Newspaper/website.

Daubney reminds us that free legal aid was stopped following the implementation in 2013, of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012. The only exception in terms of who would still be entitled to free legal aid was women who claimed domestic abuse, which leads to the application for Non-Molestation Orders.

Daubney then goes on to highlight the astonishing fact that in the year following the introduction of this Act, applications for LASPO boomed by 300%.

Daubney then reminds us that prior to the implementation of LASPO, the legal aid split was roughly 40% v 60% to men and women. Post-LASPO it is now 15% v 85% respectively. Daubney rightly argues that the change in these figures is clearly more than coincidental.

On 21st November 2016 parental alienation was also discussed on the Victoria Derbyshire news show on the BBC.

There is, in the following footage an all too familiar and disturbing interview with an anonymous child victim of parental alienation. The discussion in the studio that then subsequently takes place includes Anthony Douglass (CEO, Cafcass), Joanna Abrahams (Head of Family Law, Setford Solicitors) and Greg Mulholland (Liberal Democrat MP). Around the eight and a half minute mark Douglas is struggling to answer reasonable yet challenging questions from Mulholland.

It is incredibly important that those of us that have the time and resources to do so, to continue to chip away at this flawed system. It is incredibly important that we also continue to do all we can to actively raise awareness of parental alienation.

The above are just a few examples of the increase of discussion of parental alienation in the public domain. However despite the above examples, the current low level of public awareness of parental alienation remains unacceptable.

I do believe change will come. However like all past instances of social change, it is only ever pushed and forced on governments from the grass roots level of society; by the very people that are effected by the much needed social change. And this time, those people are us; the hundreds of thousands of alienated parents, grandparents and step parents.

We can do this, change will come. It is definitely time for the sun to set on this outdated and flawed system.


Please Note: We pledge to never make a profit or any other form of financial gain from any individuals affected by parental alienation.

We will gladly signpost individuals to true professionals within our wider network who add value, deliver results and operate in line with our core principles; contact us for more details. 

We pledge to never request payment from such individuals, nor request a finder’s fee from these professionals for any referrals made.

The Peace Not Pas Team

What I mean by the above title is that twenty or so years ago mental health was simply not discussed in the public domain the way it is now. Be it via television reports, shows, documentaries or social media, mental health is now discussed and reported on across numerous mediums in a much more positive light.

My point is that as a modern day society we appear to be collectively much more comfortable in our skin discussing mental health. Now I am by no means stating that there is no prejudicial opinions of mental health still out there, nor am I stating that the positive changes made are enough. Of course they are not. The progress made in challenging the stigma against mental health has come a long way. However it is and must still remain a work in progress.

Regarding parental alienation, I view this contentious subject being where the concept of mental health was ten or twenty years ago. Arguably parental alienation is now beginning to be brought to the attention of the masses.

For those unaware of what parental alienation is, it is a form of abuse whereby one parent (in most cases the resident parent) deliberately damages, and in some cases destroys the previously healthy loving relationship between the child and the child’s other parent (the non-resident parent). For a more detailed description see our page What is PA?

Why is it so contentious if it is a form of abuse?

Why is it simply not criminalised?

These are the questions no doubt asked by the incalculable number of alienated parents, grandparents, step-parents out there. It is not just viewed as contentious, it is also viewed as controversial by it’s opponents.

These opponents, in their most extreme views put forward the argument that parental alienation is used by abusive fathers to gain access to their children. For example, their flawed argument is that following separation a mother is most probably denying her abusive ex-partner contact with their children to protect the children from further abuse. These opponents of parental alienation, with flimsy evidence based arguments claim that this scenario happens in most cases of parental alienation.

Now I am certainly not stating that such scenarios never occur. These are and should be viewed as false allegations of parental alienation. We know that false allegations of rape occur. However this does not and should never be an argument to not continue treating rape as a criminalised form of abuse.

Regarding the divisive subject of gender within the context of parental alienation, as Peace Not Pas we acknowledge that statistics inform us that parental alienation is perpetrated against fathers more than mothers. We also accept there exists a gender bias within the family court system. However parental alienation can and does happen to either gender. As a movement we are proud of our gender neutral approach to parental alienation; there is no justification for offering support to just one section of a victimised group and excluding another. That is simply not equality. This topic is explored in more detail in one of our recent posts The Inequality of Fighting for Equality.

In When a Child Won’t See One Parent (published 12th September 2018) Jeffreys states “there is no consensus and not a great deal of research.” However there is a plethora of evidence out there that informs us not only of the prevalence of, but also the the long term detrimental effects of parental alienation.

We currently have a flawed system that is struggling to understand the complexities of parental alienation. While this system plays catch-up it is also tragically and knowingly avoiding accountability and knowingly allowing this abuse to carry on unchallenged.

Alienated parents around the world spend huge sums of money returning their cases to court again and again. Tragically not all alienated parents have the financial resources to do this, so they are left with little choice but to give up. This flawed system financially profits from alienated parents simply fighting to have a relationship with their children.

Should a parent have to pay thousands upon thousands of pounds to fight to be a parent?

Despite it’s opponents, it’s complexities and the fact it is a money-making machine embedded in a flawed system, parental alienation appears to be coming to the attention of a wider audience. Much the same as the subject of mental health did ten to twenty years ago.

Like so many social changes that have come about in the past, they are not pushed or promoted by those in power. They are almost always pushed, promoted and fought for from a grass roots level. By the very people directly effected by the needed social change. As was the case with those effected by mental health and demanding social change, this time, in terms of parental alienation, it is us. The affected parents, grandparents, step-parents, the list goes on.

We the effected, are fighting for social change, for reform. Not for ourselves, but for our children.

On the same day as the following report was broadcast on the BBC’s national news programme.

[Thank you to The Cornerstone Community Project for the capturing of the above broadcast]

The BBC wrote the following regarding the above reports:

Are you affected by any of the issues raised above? Share your experience by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

WhatsApp: +44 7555 173285
Or Upload your pictures/video here
Tweet: @BBC_HaveYourSay
Send an SMS or MMS to 61124 (UK) or +44 7624 800 100 (international)

Regarding the above statement from the BBC, if you are affected by parental alienation and it is safe and appropriate to do so, please consider sharing your experience to help raise awareness.

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.” (Cesar Chavez, 1984)


Please Note: We pledge to never make a profit or any other form of financial gain from any individuals affected by parental alienation.

We will gladly signpost individuals to true professionals within our wider network who add value, deliver results and operate in line with our core principles; contact us for more details. 

We pledge to never request payment from such individuals, nor request a finder’s fee from these professionals for any referrals made.

The Peace Not Pas Team

The following is an anonymous contribution from an alienated parent that approached us, wishing to share his experience of parental alienation. We have changed the individuals’ names in the following post.


I recently found out that I am not just John, a primary school teacher from Northern England. What it was that I recently found out was that I am also what is known as an alienated parent.

I will give a very brief synopsis of the circumstances leading up to me becoming an alienated parent.

Five years ago my marriage broke down. As is so often the case with separation following long relationships, we were both at fault. I have no issues with admitting that I made mistakes.

The divorce was incredibly acrimonious, adversarial, expensive and I was left hugely in debt. However in the grand scheme of things money is only money.

However I subsequently paid a much higher price for my acrimonious divorce than I could have ever imagined. The price I ultimately paid was the severing of my previously loving relationship with my two children, Josh aged 8 and Toby aged just 6.

Immediately after our separation my ex denied me and my whole side of the family any contact with my two sons. She also made numerous false allegations against me. Due to the allegations the Family Court did not permit me any contact with my sons until these accusations were disproved. Lo and behold four months later Cafcass, who by that time were involved, confirmed that their were no safeguarding issues regarding me and my children.

However by this time my ex had managed to effectively brainwashed my boys against me. My two loving sons were given a toxic and false version of events regarding our separation. They were told I had cheated on their mother, which I hadn’t. They were told I had left all of them and stolen the family savings, which of course I did not. They were also told toxic lies about their paternal and elderly grandparents.

Their mother, on numerous occasions has encouraged my loving boys to write to me; in what can only be described as in an extremely hateful manner to me. In these numerous letters my beautiful boys have told me they hate me. They have told me I am a really bad dad. They have also told me that I do not deserve to be their dad. They have also written to me saying that they do not want to see me anymore. In their last letter they wrote to tell me that they now have a new dad, who is so much better than me. They ended their letters by informing me that they now call their new dad, daddy.

The emotional pain such toxic messages of hatred inflicts on the heart of an alienated parent are beyond words.

I do not consider myself to be overly academic. However I consider myself to be a somewhat well-read and learned individual. As a primary school teacher I see on a daily basis the damage such emotionally abusive behaviours have on children.

The more I read about parental alienation in an attempt to understand the legal system, the remit of Cafcass and Children’s Social Services the more I am made aware of the complete and utter miscarriage of justice that is parental alienation.

I can no longer afford to legally pursue through the family court my children’s’ human rights to have a relationship with me their biological father.

Their mother has breached every single court order that either promotes or would result in contact between my children and I.

Children’s Social Services have come and gone. They do not recognise parental alienation as a form of abuse. Their findings were that all my ex and I have to do is work together! Cafcass have been involved since the very beginning. Their very own CEO tenuously states publicly that as an organisation they recognise parental alienation. However the Cafcass appointed Children’s Guardian does not feel it is in my boys’ best interest to continue to pursue contact as it runs the risk of causing more trauma to my two boys. This is despite Cafcass stating in numerous reports that “mother is exhibiting extreme alienating behaviours that will cause long term emotional harm to the children.”

All throughout my numerous telephone calls, meetings and court hearings with them I have asked Cafcass numerous questions. All of which were reasonable, proportionate and appropriate. All the questions related to my wish to understand why Cafcass are not protecting my children from harm. I am not a hot-headed man. I simply want to understand. However Cafcass have repeatedly been unable to give me sufficient answers to my questions.

So I would like to conclude this post with a question; “Cafcass, why do you not care?”


Please Note: We pledge to never make a profit or any other form of financial gain from any individuals affected by parental alienation.

We will gladly signpost individuals to true professionals within our wider network who add value, deliver results and operate in line with our core principles. Contact us for more details. 

We pledge to never request payment from such individuals, nor request a finder’s fee from these professionals for any referrals made.

The Peace Not Pas Team

For the regular followers of our movement, you will probably be aware that we recently wrote an open letter to The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) CEO, Anthony Douglas.

We also emailed him the letter directly to him.

This initial communication of ours with Anthony Douglas can be found in the following link:

Open Letter to Anthony Douglas, CEO, Cafcass

Anthony Douglas did indeed reply to our email.

Due to overwhelming demand we are publishing his reply below:

Dear Peace Not Pas Team,

Thank you for your letter, which expressed your concerns about the impact of parental alienation on children and their families.

We recognise parental alienation and our primary focus is the child impact of alienating behaviours when they are identified, including when they are present alongside other risk factors within a family, such as domestic abuse or high conflict. Our practitioners are aware of the potential for children to be influenced by parental views and remain live to this issue throughout the assessment and progression of a case. The focus is always on the safety and wellbeing of the children.

We are currently working on finalising an evidence-based assessment framework to help our practitioners assess the complexity of alienating behaviours. Thank you for your kind offer to meet in person but we have already met with and received input from a range of knowledgeable groups, including the judiciary, lawyers, academics, and men’s and women’s groups. The issues raised in your letter have been noted and will be considered along with the feedback already received.

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Douglas CBE

 ReplyFromCafcassCEO_PeaceNotPas

The above reply raised more questions for us. So we replied back.

Although already published the reply can be found in the following link:

Our reply to Anthony Douglas, CEO, Cafcass

We still await a response from Anthony Douglas following our second letter.


Please Note: We will gladly refer readers to true professionals who add value, deliver results and operate in line with our core principles.

We are also more than happy to feature quality content by writers; any wish to remain anonymous will be respected, as is the case above.

So if you align with our vision and ethos, have someone to recommend, are someone we would recommend or have something to say on the subject of shared parenting and parent equality in either a personal or professional capacity and would like a platform to have your say or contribute in some way to our cause, please contact us.

The Peace Not Pas Team

The following is an anonymous contribution from one of the alienated parents that we support. In the interests of professionalism and confidentiality we have changed the individuals’ names.


So I was in family court the other day for the umpteenth time. My name is John, I am an alienated parent. I am a father to three beautiful children that my ex has denied me access to for almost two years now. My ex has effectively brainwashed my children against me. To such an extent that they state they no longer want me in my life.

I now represent myself in all court hearings having already spent in-excess of £25,000 (approximately $33,500 USD) on legal fees. Due to the lack of legal counsel I ensure I am always accompanied by a trusted friend or family member at each court hearing.

So I arrived in court and I met my family member in the main foyer. As we were talking the Children’s Guardian walked round the corner, spotted me, walked over and politely said hello. I replied with the same level of courtesy.

Now, here in the UK, a Children’s Guardian is a role within Cafcass (The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service). They are appointed by the court to represent the rights and interests of children in family court proceedings.

In the interests of confidentiality I will refer to the Children’s Guardian as Dory. Any perceived link from readers between this chosen change of name and the Finding Nemo character of the same name that suffers from short term memory loss, is purely coincidental.

IWasInFamilyCourtTheOtherDay_Dory
© Walt Disney Pictures

In the interests of bringing some context into the following dialogue I would like to inform the reader of the following information:

The day before this court hearing I received an email from Dory informing me that “there is no more that Cafcass can assist with.” Now, obviously I found this quite concerning, given that the hearing was the very next day.

So I emailed Dory asking her to explain to me why “there is no more that Cafcass can assist with?” I received a reply but not an answer to my question. So I then sent an additional email to Dory’s manager, who I shall refer to as Groucho Marx; I also copied in Dory. In the email I asked Groucho the following three questions:

  1. Why “there is no more that Cafcass can assist with?”
  2. Why is this case not  being treated as a case of parental alienation, when Cafcass have identified it as being a case of parental alienation?
  3. Why Groucho, are you and Dory taking the opposing view of your very own CEO in such a complex case? [CEO, Anthony Douglas publicly states that parental alienation should be treated with the same severity as any other form of abuse.]

I received a reply from Groucho, but he was either unable to or unwilling to answer my above questions. He stated that such questions should be asked in a final hearing!

So in returning to my day in family court and my conversation with Dory the following dialogue between us took place:

Dory: “Sorry John for not replying to your email. I was busy writing a statement for today’s hearing, but my understanding is that Groucho Marx responded to your email.”

Me: “Well he did respond, but like you Dory, he chose not to answer my questions.”

Dory: “Well you do ask a lot of questions John.”

Me: “Well I may ask a lot of questions, but to be fair Dory, you don’t answer the majority of them. I was wondering why were you unwilling or unable to answer the very simple question that was why there is no more that Cafcass can assist with?”

Dory: “Well there are lots of factors involved, hence I asked Groucho to respond to your email.”

Me: “He responded, but he still didn’t answer my questions.”

Dory: “Well you need to take this up with Groucho.”

Me: “But Dory, you are the Children’s Guardian. You are the one that informed me that there is no more that Cafcass can assist with. So surely you have the answer. I simply don’t understand why you couldn’t answer this question yesterday.”

Dory: “As I have already answered you, I was being preparing for today’s hearing.”

Me: “Okay, I have a different question; the decision that there is no more that Cafcass can assist with, was this decision made prior to yesterday?”

Dory: “I don’t know what you mean?”

Me: “Let me rephrase the question. You know yesterday?”

Dory: “Yes.”

Me: “Was this decision made before yesterday?”

Dory: “Yes it was.”

Me: “Okay, in which case, this begs my next question; why was it decided to only inform me of this yesterday. You and Groucho both know that I represent myself in court and that I need to prepare.”

At this point Dory was beginning to appear flustered. It is only speculation on my part, but I can only assume that she was beginning to feel frustrated with the constant bombardment of questions she was either unable or unwilling to answer for me.

Dory: “John, you are never satisfied!”

Me: “I’m sorry that you feel that way Dory. However I haven’t seen my three children for almost two years. I do not know if you have children, but if you were in my shoes and you were having to fight for an organisation such as Cafcass that is so obviously incompetent, just for it to do it’s job properly, would you be satisfied with the service that you received from such an organisation?”

Dory: [No answer].

Me: “So returning to my previous query about the decision to only inform me that Cafcass can do no more, only yesterday, can you not see it from my perspective? Such a decision smacks of an unknown ulterior motive or strategic decision to give me less time to respond such a decision that was clearly not arrived at yesterday.”

Dory: [No answer].

Me: “Okay, moving on, do Cafcass accept that this is a case of parental alienation?”

Dory: “Yes Cafcass do agree that this is a case of parental alienation. However you and I differ on the level of severity of the parental alienation.”

Me: “Okay, fair enough Dory. What factor’s would need to be identified by Cafcass for this to be viewed as a severe case of parental alienation?”

Dory: “There are far too many factors John.”

Me: “Okay Dory, I’m not asking you for a long definitive list of all the factors. If it makes it a bit easier to answer this very straightforward question, just give me one factor.”

Dory: “You would need to speak to Groucho about this.”

Me: “You are not really answering any of my questions are you Dory. What I don’t understand is that Cafcass’ very own CEO has clearly stated publicly on numerous occasions that all cases of parental alienation should be dealt with the same severity as any other kind of abuse. However the approach of staff such as yourself and Groucho to cases of parental alienation is the complete opposite of how your very own CEO states his staff should be managing such cases. Such a difference in theory and practice would not be acceptable in any other organisation, so why is it acceptable for Cafcass to conduct themselves in such a way? Particularly as they are an organisation whose job it is to protect the interests of children involved in family court proceedings?”

At this point Dory chose not to answer my last question. She simply stood up and walked off.

John


Please Note: We will gladly refer readers to true professionals who add value, deliver results and operate in line with our core principles.

We are also more than happy to feature quality content by writers; any wish to remain anonymous will be respected, as is the case above.

So if you align with our vision and ethos, have someone to recommend, are someone we would recommend or have something to say on the subject of shared parenting and parent equality in either a personal or professional capacity and would like a platform to have your say or contribute in some way to our cause, please contact us.

The Peace Not Pas Team

 

Dear Mr Douglas,

Thank you very much for your prompt response to our recent letter acknowledging that you will now take on board our points as part of the reform process.

However, unfortunately you haven’t addressed any of our concerns. While we again appreciate your reiteration that “we recognise parental alienation,” you haven’t explained why:

  • There is no evidence of this on the front-line, where your employees are contradicting you.
  • It is taking so long to engage your staff with this, re-train and re-calibrate the culture and practices there.
  • It is taking so long to develop the measures to combat parental alienation.
  • Shared care isn’t recommended in the majority of cases.
  • There has been no mention of re-unification of alienated parents with their children
  • There are no target change dates and milestones.

You may well have noticed that our 21 point document has started to circulate around social media, including Linkedin, where the issue is attracting the attention of a number of media contacts as well as organisational change and leadership commentators and experts.

As we stated in our letter, enough is enough.

We are aware of your own personal background so know that you will be able to appreciate the incredible distress this issue is causing a great many people.

With that in mind can we please ask you to expand on your generalised statements about the assessment framework and provide very concerned parents with more clarity and reassurances about the other change pathways and measures you alluded to in your press releases last year?

Given the number of people involved and scale of this growing issue, this is every bit as serious an issue for Cafcass as similar challenges presented to CEOs of organisations of a similar size; not least the Windrush scandal at the Home Office, VW’s emissions problems or even the culture change issues at Carillion. Arguably, parental alienation affects many more people, especially children.

The fact there is a plethora of evidence that this form of abuse has such a lasting negative impact on both the short and long term mental health of the effected children should make the urgency of any reforms that much more a priority for the numerous stakeholders/agents of change involved. There are also detrimental effects on the mental health of the targeted families. We are proud of our gender neutral stance, however with 97% of residencies being given to mothers by the Family Court in the UK, (Kielty, S., University of East Anglia, 2006) this forces those fathers that don’t get granted residency  into the highest risk group within the UK for suicide rates.

We can count amongst our numbers several well-respected leadership and change consultants who have worked with director’s general of senior government departments, including the Cabinet Office. They are appalled by the lack of apparent urgency, absence of collective responsibility and clear disconnect between your enlightened view and front line service user experience. Look at what Starbucks has just achieved on the back of a single race-related incident, having mobilised mass training and communication in under a month? Yet they are only entrusted to sell coffee, not influence children’s lives and their profit margins are considerably less than the money spent in Family Court, daily.

Please don’t take this as negativity or hostility on our behalf. We want to do all we can to help you bring about expedient change. But we do hope you can appreciate the seriousness of our concerns, the extent of our desperation and the strength of will to resolve the most important issue we all face, the future of our relationships with our children.

This will in part be decided by your next actions.

We trust you are able to reply with reassuring specifics about what you as CEO of Cafcass and your leadership team and board will deliver this year and when we can expect to see positive change in the practice of your front line staff.

We look forward to your response, ideally within the next seven days.

Yours sincerely,

Peace Not Pas

Dear Mr Douglas,

We are a non-profit organisation with a significant international reach.

We represent hundreds of UK parents, fathers, mothers and grandparents.

We write to you as good, loving biological parents and relatives who, at the conclusion of our marriages or relationships, despite following advised protocols to agree the arrangements for our children and obtaining court orders, have since been denied a relationship with our own children/grandchildren. This has not been through any conscious action of our own, but as a consequence of deliberate, calculated and contrived action by the other parent.

We are not a gendered group and recognise that parental alienation can and does happen to mothers as well as fathers, but sadly, in the majority of cases this has been mothers, as resident parents, perpetrating the alienation after using the children to secure the assets of the former family by controlling the children.

It is a rapidly spreading scandal.

You must be acutely aware of the consequent escalating public concern about your organisation, set up to represent the best interests of children and which claims to “Build Stronger Families.”

Given the scale of the issue, conservatively said to involve between 1-4 million UK children, Cafcass is patently not doing enough to either prevent the alienation of parents and families from their children, to reform or hold alienating parents to account or to reunite those children estranged from one half of their family infrastructure, usually the paternal.

This is having an increasingly detrimental impact on alienated parents and children, as you, yourself acknowledge.

As parents with loved ones being abused as a consequence, we’re greatly distressed, greatly concerned and have run out of patience.

This letter follows your personal acknowledgement of the impact of parental alienation on families last year, recent debates at Westminster concerning the same, in part led by Andrew Brigden MP, and in light of how the perpetuation of this growing issue is fast undermining the authority of family courts and credibility of the support services, including your organisation.

As you are clearly aware, there are hundreds of thousands of children and their parents in this country, who are being systematically failed by your organisation. This is evidenced in your own research and that carried out by several independent bodies. These findings are very similar to those carried out in other countries.

These failings result in a loss or significantly reduced child contact, parent alienation, and mental health issues in both children and parents, some cases contributing to 82 male suicides a day.

These failings stem from the way the family law process is currently applied, how Cafcass has failed to adapt to changing times and gender roles and how your agents are deployed, especially with regard to the initial decision-making process at the point of separation in dealing with this country’s most precious asset, our children:

1. Your organisation fails to acknowledge that both genders are equal in the eyes of the law and subsequently fails to identify the underlying reasons for hostility between separating parties.  Much of this is dealt with according to gender and/or parental stereotypes and any hostility is more often than not a direct result of the adversarial legal process which pits parents against each other. This process also places children in the middle of a war for resources, given the parent with ‘custody’ secures the assets and income at the expense of the other party and the less time that party spends with the children the more they are rewarded. This encourages allegations in order to secure finances.

2. Your organisation does not act fast enough, despite it being widely acknowledged that time to adversely influence the children is the alienating parent’s greatest asset and, despite no evidence to support this, your representatives actively promote ‘cooling off’ and further delays and often reference intractable hostility between parties when in fact, in most cases, the hostility is generated by the parent with the power, namely the resident parent who controls the children.

3. It has unfortunately become a common tactic to perpetuate a convenient but false abuse narrative both in order to obtain legal aid and discredit the other party, glean sympathy from third parties and play to gender stereotypes. Seldom are these allegations substantiated as it would appear that allegations are enough despite these originating from an entirely biased party with much to gain. This potentially leads to children’s time being reduced with the non-resident parent who then becomes a target for alienation.

4. The identification of when allegations of domestic abuse started is a key failing of your organisation. Separation is a difficult and emotional time for both parents and children and with emotions running high in an artificial environment, patience and tempers can flare. Some parents manipulate this emotion to their advantage, a characteristic of parental alienation, and your organisation is failing to differentiate between genuine abuse claims and fabricated, engineered events (as in the 2015 Operating Framework), even in cases when presented with the evidence. There is an unfortunate but very clear gender bias at play here.

5. Alienating behaviours brought to the attention of your organisation’s Family Court Advisors (FCAs) in the course of your process are being ignored, even when solid and tangible evidence is provided. Although the Operating Framework (page 62) recognises it and says “It is important to intervene early, before alienation becomes a way of life and the relationship between a parent and child breaks down irretrievably,” it is not being applied and your organisation is not equipped to deal with and identify these behaviours and act accordingly nor does it help with reunification when alienation has occurred, even when your organisation is known to have been a key driver, albeit seemingly unwittingly.

6. Your organisation claims in its Operation Framework that you will “consider the needs of children” when “serious welfare concerns become apparent” [1.3] and does not seem to apply that in its report outcome and recommendation. It is also implied that these welfare concerns are physical and very little reference is made to the psychological abuse that the alienation process represents. It is also questionable whether an impressionable child’s wishes and feelings can ever be said to be unbiased when one parent dominates time, control and influence over them. It places children in a position of too great a responsibility over their parents and opens them up to abuse by the alienating parent who has a biased agenda.

7. Despite your clear declarations about your organisation’s recognition of and plans to address parental alienation, throughout our network of thousands of parents, several months on from your public statements, none of your front-line staff either echo your personal stance, will hardly acknowledge the term parent alienation nor are they able to suggest appropriate pathways for addressing the problems. This does, on the face of it, appear to represent a serious organisation leadership failing in terms of basic communication, engagement and change management. We refer you to these comments by organisational change, culture change and employee engagement guru Ian Buckingham (who kindly wrote an article for us in December 2017, entitled Parental Alienation: Is the continual spread of this abuse caused by organisation culture?) This does imply systemic culture change issues akin to the human rights abuses and problems the Home Office has recently experienced in the mismanagement of the Windrush scandal.

8. Parents that attend a Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) [46% in the sample of data used] are deemed suitable for a co-parenting support approach. Disappointingly, courts frame the dispute as interpersonal conflict not as purely obstruction by one party (as already discussed above). The percentage of shared care and co-parenting outcomes should ideally match this percentage but are much lower; this is a core failing in your process as there is no continuous improvement built-in and no accountability.

9. There are a number of courses that form part of recommended outcomes but there are none for parents who have been described as ‘alienators’ to obtain support. These could and should include counselling accompanied by psychological evaluations and psychometrics in an attempt to help parents re-frame their attitudes and behaviours. Your organisation fails to identify this abuse and as such has no way to deal with it effectively, if anything this failing is creating major problems downstream and the very delays enable parental alienation to become further entrenched.

10. Your organisation refers to non-molestation orders (NMO) as an indication of someone who has been violent towards another party. That is a complete misinterpretation of the purpose of such orders which can be granted for a range of reasons including as a means of avoiding excessive arguing between parties outside of the legal process and bear no relation to violence or abuse. It is clear from research, however, that non-molestation orders can and often are abused as a weapon in separation to prevent dialogue and communication about the children and to force communication via children or the court. Again  this is an attribute of parental alienation, and to potentially secure legal aid. Little evidence is required to be successful in obtaining an order. Ex-parte NMO’s are granted in 98% of applications [2] and are rarely contested due to the cost and complexity of defending therefore no charges are brought by the CPS. Your organisation needs to have increased governance and careful consideration around the treatment of NMOs in its recommendations.

11. Your organisation does not have a rework loop in your process once a case is closed. Your organisations Proportionate Working Principles states you will “work with HMCTS to ensure Cafcass is removed as a party once we have closed.” This goes against every best practice in Continuous Process Improvement as your organisation will rarely find if and why the outcome of your decision was successful. This control and feedback mechanism is a key metric to making your organisation stronger and better, continuously improving. Again, this is a leadership issue Your organisation is pushing unaddressed issues downstream and these poor decisions can take several years to re-mediate leaving children and parents vulnerable and resulting in significant psychological harm to targeted parents and children.

12. 30% (12,179) of cases managed by your organisation return to court in two years, with 3,654 returning multiple times. In a sample of 100 cases (just 0.008%), 76 were due to ‘alleged’ conflict (As highlighted above) or safeguarding; two areas of expertise your organisation claims to manage and support. This ’defect rate’ is unacceptable in any organisation, more so when children and parental well-being and mental health is involved [1]. Your own figures suggest that these cases involve around 1 million children. If we attribute 6 relatives affected by parental alienation to that child that is more people affected by parental alienation than the combined population of Wales and Scotland. This is not a minority/marginal issue.

13. An independent audit of a range of cases at senior level should take place at regular intervals with the results published to ensure that the key facts of each case are picked up, have been addressed and were they have not there is a process rework. A Risk Management and Control Framework with sufficient governance is not referenced in your Operating Framework implying once a case is closed there is no subsequent audit. This is a major learning and development failing if this is the case

14. An Early Intervention scheme should be considered that provides both parents with transparency, communication, clarity and support and giving both parents an indication of what to expect before being forced into an adversarial legal environment. Andrew Bridgen MP is advocating a pilot scheme with an aim to provide parents with much-needed clarity and certainty through proceedings. But again, this is taking far too long given the scale of the issues and importance of the subject.

15. Children are being interviewed to ascertain ‘thoughts and feelings’ in isolation with no supervision and the sessions are not recorded. Yet the interviews are not taking into account the influence of the alienating parent and are placing children in what we consider to be an undue position of responsibility for decisions adults would struggle with. This is a major failing and needs immediate attention. All sessions should be independently supervised by either a teacher or other independent adult and the practice itself needs significant overhaul.

16. No work is currently undertaken to ascertain and then mediate between parents to resolve alleged ‘implacable’ differences. No regard is given for the fact that the party alleging ‘abuse’ can simply refuse to comply with any third-party action, can refuse to comply with Cafcass recommendations and can refuse to comply with court orders without any checks, balances, or accountability for their actions and this does not seem to prejudice their case or require remedy. There is also no consideration given to the fact that the same individual, who wields so much power they can ignore Court Orders, ironically can claim that they are being bullied, impossible given they clearly wield all the power. It is now clear that common phraseology is used in cases to justify their actions “I will not force my children to do what they don’t want to” etc, which should be key indicators of a deep-seated parenting problem and deeper mental health issue.

17. FCA’s need suitable time with clients prior to court hearings, at the moment an FCA can request a fact-finding or section 7 report after just several minutes with a client and no evidence to support allegations. This causes distress to parents in a difficult situation, who often have no legal support and it distresses children who often have had no cause to deal with third parties/strangers, an act which is alienating in its own right and used by alienating parents to cultivate blame/perpetuate the abuse narrative.

18. All evidence, no matter what stage of the process should be reviewed and considered. The ownership lies with your organisation and when new information comes to light it should be acted upon, this is not happening. This evidence can validate behaviour and safeguarding issues relevant to the case especially where a parent refuses to recognise or follow your recommendations or the court order.

19. Your Parenting Plan should be mandatory prior to a First Hearing and Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) taking place and should be the primary focal point upon couples divorcing and deciding child arrangements. Mediation should also focus on this. Yet it is currently discretionary. Where parties fail to participate it should be noted in any report and appropriate action taken. The Plan is an excellent document but is not enforceable so there is little value of it in certain situations.

20. The unanimous feedback from all participants on several recent SPIPs (mothers and fathers) was that their experience of your organisation was poor and the format of the sessions were ill-devised, poorly facilitated and deeply distressing to attend. Each and every one said your process increased conflict in their relationship in trying to resolve childcare. There is a basic lack of communication between FCAs and clients; FCAs do not listen, there is little in the way of support to help resolve shared care with both parents who want to be involved in their upbringing and development. I can only assume your organisation, has a mechanism in place like successful commercial organisations to capture the ‘voice of the customer/parent’ and act on this feedback.

21. Your FCAs appear to have little to no understanding of mental health, particularly in the context of parental alienation. All the available evidence regarding the effective assessment and case management of parental alienation informs us that parental alienation should be viewed within the context of mental health. There is a plethora of evidence that informs us that in severe cases of parental alienation, mental health issues such as personality disorders are all too often the driving force behind the abusive behaviours of the alienating parent. Furthermore the same body of evidence informs us that there can be short and long-term detrimental effects on the mental health of the alienated children as well as the alienated parent and their alienated family. Despite the evidenced link between mental health and parental alienation your FCA’s appear to be ill-informed regarding this. As a result of this clear lack of evidence based knowledge and approach, certain traits, risks and other such factors that are associated with mental health and inextricably linked with the abuse go undetected by your organisation’s FCAs.


Parents are being made to feel criminalised by your organisation and the draconian court process that is being forced on them.  Can you not see the irony in the fact that non-resident parents are accused, time and again, of using the family court as an extension of an alleged (and false) abuse narrative, when in actual fact it is the only alternative available to us when denied a meaningful relationship with our children, a course of action recommended by police, solicitors and indeed your own organisation? But when we turn to the courts for support, we are accused by opposing lawyers of “abuse by litigation” and only 1% of contact orders, gained as a result of your intervention, are enforced.

There have been several high-profile criminal cases that have collapsed due to lack of material and non-disclosure of evidence yet your FCA ‘experts’ are making decisions on the same basis in a limited time-frame that have major repercussions for family life and children. Your organisation sits back and endorses this by a slow, reactive process with no intervention that has no certainty of outcome.

We urge your organisation to change and for you to hold your leaders to account for delivering that change via their front line staff. Your intervention and process places undue and unnecessary pressure and stress on parents through inappropriate work with our children and undermines people who simply want to move on with their lives with their children, most of whom want fair and reasonable access ideally in a shared care environment.

Providing guidance and support to both parents early in the process would be a simple procedure to implement and this along with suitable mediation and support would negate the need for protracted court hearings downstream. These are changes you could and should be making NOW!

No CEO of a profit-making commercial organisation would settle for the inefficient and ineffective processes your organisation has. So why do you Mr Douglas? Your professional and personal reputation is very much on the line. You should be aware that there is increasing talk of a mass class action by alienated parents in deep distress, such is the scope and scale of this issue. And you will be aware of the campaign to deploy our local MPs, who will also be copied in on this letter.

You should be aware that we have a social media reach of 1 million per week and growing fast and given this is literally the most important issue we all face, those of us who survive the abuse, are not going to go away.

We have emailed you a copy of this letter direct. We would like to meet and discuss the contents and can come to a meeting supported by social workers, reunification specialists, psychiatrists, lawyers and organisational change consultants should you need additional input.

We trust and hope you will take our considered points seriously and look forward to your response, ideally in the next seven days.

Yours sincerely,

Peace Not Pas