In our last blog we looked at parental alienation, the significant impacts of it on parents and children and some remedies being implemented by the courts in order to protect the child from this disease which is prevalent, in differing degrees, in family court parenting disputes.
Change of residence may be ordered where there is Parental Alienation
One remedy offered by the court’s where the alienating parent has significantly damaged the child’s relationship with the other parent, is incapable of repairing the damage caused and is assessed as having a limited capacity to encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent in the future, is a change of the child’s residence so that they live with the accused parent.
Courtney Barton, Petrie family law expert when asked about how the Court deals with parental alienation, states:
“There is increasing judicial willingness to consider a change in residence of a child where parental alienation is found to have occurred, the child’s welfare has been impacted and the court considers that a change of residence is the only sensible solution in order to minimise any further psychological trauma to the child and maximise the chances of the child having an ongoing relationship with that parent in the future.”
We are now going to examine some family court cases where the court has found that a parent’s course of conduct has caused damage to the child’s relationship with the other parent. In most of those cases, the Court took the drastic measure of ordering a change of the child’s residence.
Case Studies: Parental Alienation
Wang & Dennison (2009) – the Mother was found to have engaged in ‘behaviour intended to incite hatred in the children against the father’. No change of residence was ordered due to the child threatening self-harm if they were forced to live with the father. The court ordered that the children live with the Mother, that the parties complete a post separation orders program with a view to reunification with the Father.
Mitchell & Mitchell (2014) – the Father admitted he had denied the children their right to a meaningful relationship with their mother. The court reversed the children’s residence and made orders that the children live the Mother.
Feltham & Feltham (2014) – the father demonised the mother and turned the children against her. The court reversed the child’s residence and made orders that the children live with the Mother.
Chapple & Michel (2017) FCCA 177 – The Mother unilaterally relocated interstate with the child, changed her phone number and did not advise the father of her whereabouts. When the Father commenced court proceedings and orders were subsequently made for the child to spend time with the Father, the Mother failed to comply with them. The Court found that the Mother had a negative attitude towards the father, that she had failed to promote the father’s relationship with the child in the past or since the making of court orders and was unlikely to do so in the future. The Court found that the child was more likely to have an ongoing relationship with both parents in the father’s care and made orders for a change of residence to the Father.
What to do if you are experiencing parental alienation
Are you a parent who is the victim of parental alienation?
It is important to do the following:
- document any behaviour of a parent that is designed to destroy your relationship with your child.
- Ensure changeover of the child takes place in a public place and bring a support person with you when coming into contact with the other parent (but have them remain in the vehicle) so you have a witness to any negative and/or destructive behaviours by the other parent (note it is very important that you do not incite or contribute to any parental conflict in front of the children and diffuse any conflict if it does arise and remove the children from that conflict);
- Propose changeover at a contact centre to limit any possibility of the other party making false allegations against you in the future;
- Do not attempt to reason with your child about their rejection;
- Spend time with your child making positive memories.
- Never retaliate with verbal attacks on the alienating parent – always be the bigger person.
Parental alienation of children, no matter how serious, can greatly affect children, including their emotional and mental health and can cause ongoing issues for the child into adulthood.
It is therefore very important that you do not denigrate the other parent to your child or involve them in any parental conflict and, except where the child’s safety is at an unacceptable risk, you should do all you can so as to facilitate your child having a meaningful relationship with the other parent in the future.
If you are the target of parental alienation or involved in a parenting dispute where there is intractable conflict, we are here to help.
Contact us for more information and to receive your first consultation at a reduced rate.