Responding to allegations of alienating behaviour

Objective:

To consider the issues arising from allegations of Alienating behaviour from a multi-disciplinary viewpoint.

Members:

Jaime Craig (Co-Chair)
HHJ Karen Venables (Co-Chair)
Jenny Beck
Rosemary Hunter
Claire Webb
Fiona Straw
Melanie Carew
Matthew Pinnell
Bernadette MacQueen
Colette Dutton
Ruth Henke
Natalia Schiffrin JP
Mavis Amonoo-Acquah
Helen Jones JP – Magistrate
HHJ Alison Raeside – Judge
Rachel Thomas – Children’s Commissioner for Wales Office
Vinice Cowell

Outcome:

Develop FJC Guidance as to how these complex allegations are responded to by the family courts.

Terms of Reference:

Purpose of the working group:

To consider the issues arising from allegations alienating behaviour by parents from a multi-disciplinary viewpoint, and thereafter develop FJC Guidance through each stage of the private law process as to how these complex allegations should be responded to by the family courts.
The Guidance will focus on case management and will be drafted in a way that is accessible to participants in proceedings where alienating behaviour has been raised. The Guidance will also recognise the way in which allegations of alienating behaviour can arise in public law proceedings whilst not attempting to provide case management guidance for such proceedings.
This is a highly polarised and politicised area and there is a pressing need for this guidance. We will hope to capture in a balanced, clear and evidence-based way the complex context in which these allegations are made, understood and responded to with a focus on outcomes that are driven by the welfare and wellbeing of the child.

This will include:

  • How allegations of alienating behaviours are conceptualised and defined.
  • A brief summary of the research and political context of these allegations – drawing on rather than replicating available literature. The aim is not to write a guidance document on ‘parental alienation’ but to remain focused on how these allegations are responded to and managed within private law proceedings.
  • To consider practical considerations for how courts and professionals in the family justice area respond to these allegations, including examples of good practice. This will hopefully include ways in which these issues can be addressed proactively through the different stages of the private court process with an accessible route map of process.
  • To consider the spectrum of court users who are impacted by the allegations and their experience and understanding of the court process
  • The context in which allegations are made, including but not limited to parallel allegations of domestic abuse and to set out the factors that may contribute to a child’s reluctance or refusal to have contact with a non-resident parent.
  • Alternative explanations for a child’s reported reluctance/refusal and the ‘voice of the child’.
  • Issues in relation to the resourcing, timing, quality, nature and value of assessments and the necessary qualifications of those providing expert evidence.
  • Issues relating to proposed interventions, the practical challenges and welfare considerations including the evidence base and outcomes.
  • The quality, form and nature of expert evidence and the implications for good practice where an instructed expert offers treatment as well as assessment .
  • Effective links and signposting/translations – it is envisaged that a companion document may be required to assist the majority of participants who are unrepresented

Outputs published by this working group:

Interim Guidance in relation to expert witnesses in cases where there are allegations of alienating behaviours – conflicts of interest (PDF)

Timetable

The working group will work to a 12-month timetable, allowing approximately 4-5 months for the development of draft guidance, a period of external consultation and revision before a final draft being presented to the January meeting of the council 2023.