Weekend = Cancelled

Posted on: August 3rd, 2018

You have prepared excitedly for the weekend with your ten year old son. You have booked tickets to the wildlife centre. Jack will love that, he is obsessed with the meercats.

Then the text arrives. ‘Sorry, Jack cannot come today, we are busy’…..

Your heart sinks. 

Yet again, another precious weekend with Jack has been cancelled at the eleventh hour.

Jack texts you later to say that he is upset. He really wanted to see you. He wonders when you will see each other again. You begin to wonder yourself.

You try again to reason with your ex, but your attempts at negotiation are futile. Your ex says that you are a bad influence on Jack. They say you are an unfit parent. You try not to snap, but you sometimes feel like they are goading you, hoping that you will react angrily, in a bid to prove their point.

Does this scenario sound familiar? You are not alone. If press reports are to be believed, since their separation, Angelina Jolie has allegedly taken extreme steps to restrict Brad Pitt’s contact with his children. What was once heralded as a fairy-tale romance has taken an unexpectedly bitter turn.

The ‘Lara Croft’ star’s attempt to estrange her children from their father has been identified as a form of ‘parental alienation’. This is the term used to describe when a parent attempts to emotionally separate a child from their other parent. It is often perpetrated by the parent with primary care of the child, with a view to monopolising control over the child’s own thoughts and feelings about the other parent. Such behaviour has been identified as a form of emotional abuse.

It is estimated that parental alienation is present in 11 to 15% of divorce cases involving children. Sometimes the stress of a breakup can distort a parent’s reality or they may be looking to ‘score points’ with their child. This toxic behaviour can have a devastating effect on a child, who simply wants to spend quality time with each of their parents.

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) is taking steps to combat this issue by introducing ‘positive parenting’ courses, involving experts (such as psychiatrists) and, in extreme cases, removing the child from the care of the perpetrating parent to the care of the ‘target parent’.

You need not suffer alone at the hands of a hostile ex. For every week that passes, your child grows older. You cannot turn back the clock, so action should be taken as soon as possible. As a firm we are committed to reaching agreement by constructive discussion where possible, but if the need arises, we provide detailed advice on issuing child arrangement proceedings and will represent you in court if this is the only way to proceed.

We understand that during times of stress and conflict our calm, supportive approach can go a long way to resolve family disputes but we are equally able to take a robust stance and as your case requires.

If you would like further guidance or have any questions, please contact Marie Stock, Senior Associate in the Family Team.