This petition was submitted during the 2017-2019 Conservative government

Petition To introduce a law that recognises Parental Alienation as a criminal offence.

Parental alienation can have severe effects on children —low self-esteem and self-hatred, lack of trust, depression, substance abuse and other forms of addiction - as children lose the capacity to give and accept love from a parent.

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What children of divorce most want and need is to maintain healthy and strong relationships with both of their parents, and to be shielded from their parents' conflicts.

This petition is closed This petition ran for 6 months

15,083 signatures

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Government responded

This response was given on 9 May 2019

We do not believe that it is necessary to introduce a criminal offence against parents who alienate their child against the other parent as the court can take effective action against such behaviour.

Read the response in full

The Government is aware of the difficulties that parents can face in continuing a relationship with their child following parental separation or divorce, sometimes because of the obstructive behaviour of the other parent. We recognise that such behaviour causes great harm to children, particularly in situations where children are already distressed by the break-up of their family.

“Parental alienation” describes a situation where a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by one of their parents in order to undermine or interfere with the relationship with the other parent.

The Government is confident that the family justice system can robustly address such behaviour when it is alleged in child arrangements cases and we are continuing to strengthen our work in this area.

The legal framework which governs family law cases is gender neutral. There is a statutory presumption that the involvement of either parent in the child’s life will further the child’s welfare, unless the contrary can be shown. In reaching decisions in cases about the child’s upbringing, the court must consider the child’s ascertainable wishes and feelings and how capable each of the parents are of meeting the child’s needs.

In making decisions about child arrangements, the family court may seek social work analysis and recommendations from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass). Cafcass practitioners are aware of the potential for children to be influenced by parental views and are alive to this issue when it is raised in child arrangements cases. Any concerns of alienating behaviours by a parent will be reported to the court when assessing the children’s best interests, which includes assessing the level of parental influence on a child’s wishes and feelings. The focus is on the safety and welfare of the children in each case.

Cafcass is continuing to develop its work in addressing parental alienation when it arises in child arrangements cases. Cafcass launched the Child Impact Assessment Framework (CIAF) last year. The framework includes various tools and guidance that further support its practitioners in identifying how individual children are experiencing parental separation and helps assess the impact of different factors on a child, including alienating behaviour by a parent. Further information is available on the Cafcass website at www.Cafcass.Gov.UK.

Exceptionally, in cases of persistent parental alienation over time, the family court may decide that the child’s longer-term welfare is best served by a transfer of the child’s residence from one parent to the other. The alienating parent’s involvement can then be facilitated by the other parent. Such decisions are, however, profound for the child and are never taken lightly.

Ministry of Justice.