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Entries in Nicholas Bala (2)


Parental alienation: why have the courts been so slow?

Professor Nicholas Bala from Queen's University Canada contributed an overview of parental alienation and the courts to a recent seminar in London. 

In it he examined why the courts in England have been less likely to identify parental alienation than courts in Canada and Australia.

His presentation covers the background to the topic and includes comment on the gender politics - pointing out that advocacy groups for both mothers and fathers use “welfare rhetoric” to deny and seek contact.

He poses the question: "Child support is state enforced, why not contact?"

By searching published case reports in England/Wales, Canada and Australia for mention of alienation he shows an upward trend in cases over time, although fewer reported cases in England and Wales.  In his study, 81% of alienating parents are female and 19% male.

The presentation goes on to discuss judicial presumption of contact, the use of experts in such cases, conflict reduction and parental education,  In his study of alienation cases, the residence of the child was reversed to the rejected parent in 26% of cases and modified to shared in 4% in English cases. 

He concludes that we need:

  • a “change in culture” – greater recognition by society, professionals and courts of harm to children from high conflict, value of less adversarial dispute resolution, but also importance of role of both parents in lives of their children
  • a legislative declaration about presumptive value of relationships with both parents after separation (provided not adverse to child’s safety). Legislation needed to educate parents, lawyers, mental health professionals & judges
  • effective judicial control & timely intervention
    - in high conflict cases, early effective judicial intervention is critical
    - in the most severe and intractable,  courts need to make earlier use of contempt and change in residence

Parental alienation talk by Nicholas Bala

The Nuffield Foundation recently held a seminar in London on Parental alienation and the voices of children in family proceedings.

Professor Nicholas Bala from Queen's University in Canada addressed the questions:

In a relatively small portion of all separation and divorce cases, children reject a parent. How and why does this happen?

How do the courts respond to these cases, which are characterised by high levels of conflict between parents, and what should they do?

What can we learn from the experience of other jurisdictions such as Canada and the US?

A copy of his presentation is now available, providing a summary of the topic and some useful statistics and case references.