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Scottish Parliament marks Parental Alienation Awareness Day

A motion tabled by John Mason MSP has already been signed by 18 other MSPs as noted below. 

The day has also been marked by a press release issued across Europe by the Platform for European Fathers, and a Good Parenting ‘quiz’ issued by FNF to help raise the awareness of this terrible problem and the types of unacceptable behaviour that lead to children being alienated against formerly much loved parents.  

"International Parental Alienation Awareness Day  

That the Parliament notes that 25 April marks International Parental Alienation Awareness Day; notes that, in over 30 countries, the day aims to highlight the damaging impact that such alienation, when one parent influences a child to reject the other parent following separation, can have on families; believes that, as this can sometimes happen unintentionally, highlighting the signs of alienation are key; understands that the side effects of such alienation can include an increased risk to the mental health of the children and family members who lose access; considers that, where possible, allowing both parents to be involved in the life of a child following separation leads to the best outcome, and hopes that the awareness day will help increase awareness of the benefits that healthy relationships between separated parents can bring."

Supported by: James Dornan, Gillian Martin, Ivan McKee, David Torrance, Sandra White, Ash Denham, Colin Beattie, Bill Kidd, Jeremy Balfour, Fulton MacGregor, Ben Macpherson, Clare Haughey, Jenny Gilruth, Kate Forbes, Maree Todd, Gil Paterson, David Stewart, Tom Arthur


Launch of Parental Alienation funding appeal

Families Need Fathers Scotland is launching a funding appeal to mark International Parental Alienation Awareness day on 25th April 2017.

Parental alienation, where a child rejects a previously loved father or mother due to undue influence from or loyalty to the other parent, is being increasingly recognised in Scotland.  Some sheriffs are making orders for family therapy to help rebuild the relationship between children and their alienated parent. Child welfare reporters should soon be receiving specific training on parental alienation as part of their preparation for carrying out reports for family courts.

But this awareness is only just beginning to spread. Family solicitors and advocates often acknowledge that there is deliberate or unconscious alienation in some of their cases but can’t see a way forward.

There are very few family therapists and child psychiatrists in Scotland with knowledge and understanding of parental alienation. Even when sheriffs would like to order some sort of intervention to undo the damage that alienation is doing to a child they encounter the shortage of professionals able to work with the family members involved.

Families Need Fathers Scotland has been helping fathers and mothers who are affected by parental alienation. We provide information and support and have organised training sessions conducted by leading specialists in this area such as Karen Woodall, Dr Kirk Weir and Dr Sue Whitcombe.  We have also supported individual parents with their court case, such as the father in AH v CH, and we have followed instances where alienated children have been successfully reintroduced to their parent.

This funding appeal is being made so that we can establish a separate fund to support family intervention where significant progress has been made but funding has run out before the work is complete.  Many of the cases we know about have taken far too long to proceed through the legal system before a suitable professional is identified and work can begin. The longer the gap in contact between parent and alienated child the harder it becomes for a therapist to intervene. Getting a court decision in your favour is no use if the case has taken so long that restoring a relationship with the child is almost impossible.

We are also very keen to be able to keep a record of alienation cases in the Scottish courts that will help build knowledge and awareness of successful interventions but also learn from the unsuccessful ones, including those in which a potentially successful intervention stopped short through lack of funding.

Why are we launching this appeal. The rules around publicity that might identify an individual child make it very hard for any affected individual to embark on crowdfunding on their own behalf.  

Families Need Fathers is a recognised Scottish charity with a solid reputation.  We are asking you to trust us to use the money raised in an appropriate way.  We will seek guidance from various experts in deciding which cases are worthy of support, and we will use a proportion of the funds to support our training events and other work to publicise the ways in which parental alienation can be treated and overcome.

By supporting the Make it a FAIR Fight appeal you will help ensure that Scottish children aren’t needlessly excluded from the love and affection of one of their parents, and that intervention in cases of parental alienation will become widely available.

You will help us to confront the shoulder-shrugging lawyers who say "There’s nothing can be done. Ask the court to allow you to send Christmas and Birthday cards" or the therapists who say  "respect the voice of the child" without investigating what lies behind a child rejecting a parent they previously loved and who hasn't ever harmed them.


International Parental Alienation Awareness Day

Parent support organisations from 30 countries worldwide from Australia to Zanzibar are marking Tuesday April 25th and International Parental Awareness Day.

"Parental Alienation" describes the situation in which one parent influences a child to reject the other parent after separation. Sometimes the alienation is deliberate and intentional. It can also develop unintentionally where the alienating parent creates unbearable emotional pressure forcing the child to take sides. Either form can result in significantly increased risks of both mental and physical illness for children in both the short and long term when they realise half of their prospective emotional support is missing.

Families Need Fathers Scotland and the other national organisations are using Parental Alienation Awareness Day to highlight the issue to politicians, judges, lawyers and the various professionals who work with children and families.

This issue affects large numbers of fathers and mothers worldwide as well as grandparents and other extended family members who find themselves cut out of the life of a child who previously loved them and enjoyed their company but now, without explanation or reason says s/he no longer wants any relationship at all.

Understanding of Parental Alienation is growing slowly in Scotland. There has been recent acknowledgement of the prevalence of parental alienation in England and Wales by Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, and by CAFCASS (The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) the public body in England and Wales set up to promote the welfare of children and families involved in family court.

Ian Maxwell, National Manager of FNF Scotland, says, "As awareness grows of parental alienation and the damage that it does to all the parties concerned - even the alienating parent - we hope that ways of working with affected families to counteract and undo alienation can be developed and improved in Scotland. The family courts also need to develop an understanding of how best to handle such cases.

Families Need Fathers Scotland is marking Parental Alienation Awareness Day to launch a funding campaign to raise funds to support innovative work to counter alienation. We also are seeking to raise the topic in the Scottish Parliament on the Awareness Day."

The organisations supporting the Day are:

  • Alabama Family Rights Association (USA)
  • ANASAP (Costa Rica)
  • Asociacija prieš tėvų Atstūmimą (Lithuania)
  • Asociación Custodia Compartida Alicante (Spain)
  • Asociacion Padres por la Justicia (Guatemala)
  • Associação Brasileira Criança Feliz (Brazil)
  • Associação Portuguesa para a Igualdade Parental e Direitos dos Filhos (Portugal)
  • Association "J'aime mes 2 Parents" (France)
  • Association of Equal Parenting (Iceland)
  • Associazione Genitori Separati e Figli Onlus (Italy)
  • Australian Brotherhood of Fathers (Australia)
  • Centro Antiviolenza Bigenitoriale Onlus (Italy)
  • Colibri Italy (Italy)
  • Families Need Fathers Scotland (UK)
  • Fathers without Rights (Austria)
  • Figlipersempre Nazionale (Italy)
  • Foreningen Far (Denmark)
  • Isät lasten asialla ry (Finland)
  • Kids Need Both, Inc (USA)
  • Männerpartei (Austria)
  • Mesa de Trabajo Nacional por los Derechos del Niño al Vinculo Familiar (Argentina)
  • Movimento Femminile Pari Genitorialità (Italy)
  • New Zealand Brotherhood of Fathers (New Zealand)
  • Padres por Siempre Paraguay (Paraguay)
  • Pais em Camisa de Força (Brazil)
  • Papa gibt Gas  (Austria)
  • Papà Separati Lombardia (Italy)
  • People for Co-parenting (South Africa)
  • Romanian Association for Joint Custody (Romania)
  • S.O.S. PAPA (Belgium)
  • Save the Children (Iceland)
  • SOS Parents (Luxembourg)
  • SYGAPA (ΣΥΓΑΠΑ) (Greece)
  • U.D.i.RE – Uomini e Donne in Rete (Italy)
  • United States Brotherhood of Fathers (USA)
  • Vader Kennis Centrum (Netherlands)
  • Zanzibar Social Workers Association (Zanzibar)



'Leave to remove' judgment: lessons to be learned

There are two lessons to be drawn from a recent Court of Session judgement by Lady Wise refusing an application by a mother to relocate to England with their son against the wishes of the father.  FNF Scotland hope that this case will inform the coming debate on the review of family law and consideration of case management in family cases in Scottish courts.

The first is that any reform will have to be accompanied by a programme of public education – and political leadership - that parents who separate have a responsibility to their children to support their former partner's right to be their father/mother above any personal animosity they may still feel.

While we do not want to pick further at the raw wounds of the parties in that specific case, some of the observations made by Lady Wise are continuing themes in the stories we hear at our monthly group meetings around Scotland.

Not least of the resonances is in her observation that, “O [the child] is not a prize to be won or lost in this contest. He is a little boy with two parents whose ongoing involvement in his life he has come to expect insofar as a 2 year old child has any expectations.”

Lady Wise also explained why she was refusing the separate application by the mother for an order that she should be awarded residence with the child. It is one of the themes FNF Scotland will be stressing during the forthcoming debate and that underpins our campaign for a presumption of sharing parenting after separation.  

In refusing the application Lady Wise said, "I have already commented that she (the mother) seems to misunderstand the nature of such an order.  It would not give her the right to take important decisions about O’s (the child) care and upbringing, including his education, without reference to the defender." and adds "There are good reasons for not making a Residence Order in this case.  The absence of a Residence Order will send a signal to the pursuer that neither party has ultimate authority over this child.”

The terms “resident” and “non-resident” parent immediately invite parents and their families to perceive a difference in status between them.  The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 refers to "residence" and "contact" orders, which perpetuates this unhelpful distinction.

The second lesson we hope is taken seriously in the forthcoming debate concerns the current adversarial process in deciding family conflicts.  While such proof hearings may be successful in testing the evidence of the parties, this adversarial process may itself drive them further apart.  We have written before that parents have to find a way of collaborating in the interests of the children long after the judge has moved to the next cases and their solicitors have closed the files.

This proof hearing took six days in the Court of Session, with both parents and a large number of witnesses producing affidavits and giving evidence under oath, some of which Lady Wise found inaccurate and unhelpful.  The costs to each party will have been eye-watering.  Following this judgement the mother and father will have to co-operate with each other on bringing up their child for at least the next 15 or more years.  It would help if the maternal and paternal grandparents could be part of the solution not the problem, but this hearing allowed them to demonstrate from the witness box the substantial gulf between the two families.

If evidential hearings in family cases were held on an inquisitorial basis, with the judge deciding what evidence is necessary and conducting the examination of witnesses, such cases could be shortened and some of the hostility taken out of the proceedings.

No family case can be painless, but there is scope for significantly minimising the hurt and thereby making it easier for the parties to work together in future.  Child Welfare Hearings at earlier stages of family disputes are already conducted on more of an inquisitorial basis though the practice varies in courts across Scotland. At their best they focus proceedings on what both parents can do to support their children's wellbeing rather than running down each other's character.

Inquisitorial does not mean soft, but it could take some of the collateral damage out of a difficult process by avoiding some of the evidence that will have no bearing on the judge's decision but can further antagonise and undermine the parties. Lawyers will still perform a vital role, but the inquisitorial approach will focus far more on finding resolution rather than simply outgunning an opponent.

Family cases in some other countries are run on inquisatorial lines.  In an experiment in Oregon, parents were offered a choice of using traditional trials or an Informal Domestic Relations Trial (IDRT) in which the fact-finding and decision making process follows an inquisitorial route. 

Research published recently showed IDRT cases are typically docketed more quickly than traditional trials, last just a couple of hours and decisions are rendered promptly, usually the day of the hearing or trial.  The court retains jurisdiction to modify the process as fairness requires and to divert cases where domestic violence or other reasons render IDRT inappropriate.  There was a broad consensus that the IDRT process significantly enhanced the parties’ sense that the process was fair,  even when the outcome was not exactly what either party had advocated.


Research participants wanted - housing needs of non-resident parents

Research into housing of parents with less than half of parenting time.

FNF in England has been asked to help find "non-resident" parents for a Cambridge University housing research project. Interviewees will receive a £20 voucher, and the research findings will be shared with FNF.

Only need 20 participants are needed, based anywhere in the UK, so if you are interested get in touch quickly as it will be first come first served.

Here's the official project description:

Can you help with a Cambridge University survey in return for a £20 Love2shop voucher? The university wants to speak to single parents, aged 35 or under, who live with their children less than half of the time. The researchers need to speak to parents who have their child to stay with them for at least one night a fortnight, or would if they had suitable accommodation. Participants must have children under 18 and must not be living with a partner to qualify. A researcher will call you to conduct a short telephone survey – that’s all you need to do. All of your answers would be confidential and data kept anonymous. If you can help with this research project, please get in touch on 01638 741830 or tania@spirusmarketing.com.