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This is a true story. A parent recently made a call to the local Family Maintenance Enforcement Program, which had indicated by letter that should he have any concerns about ongoing child support issues, he could call the agency to discuss matters. His “concern” had in fact escalated over a period of thirteen years of forced estrangement from his child to a profound fear for the health and well-being of his son, now in his early twenties. Despite the invitation to call the agency, the curt reply to his desperate entreaties to the program officer was, first, that parental alienation was not an issue of professional concern to the agency as “the jury is still out on whether parental alienation even exists”; and second, that there was absolutely nothing the agency could do for him. The call was then abruptly ended by the program officer.
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Tens of thousands of children a year are losing contact with their fathers because of “failing” family court system and disastrous custody arrangements, a study has found.
One in three children whose parents separated or divorced over the last 20 years disclosed that they had lost contact permanently with their father.
Almost a tenth of children from broken families said the acrimonious process had left them feeling suicidal while others later sought solace in drink, drugs or crime.
They complained of feeling “isolated” and “used” while parents admitted having used children as “bargaining tools” against each other.
Lawyers said the study showed that the court system itself was making family break-up more acrimonious with children used as “pawns”.
They warned that so-called “no fault” divorces were encouraging warring parents to channel their “bloodletting” into disputes over contact.
Opposition politicians said the poll presented an alarming picture of a system “in a mess” which was all too often leaving fathers “shut out”.
The poll of 4,000 parents and children was carried out to provide a snapshot of the workings of the family court system exactly 20 years after the implementation of the landmark 1989 Children Act.
It found that a third of children from broken families had been tempted by drink or drugs while as many as 10 per cent had later become involved in crime.
A quarter of the children said that they had been asked to lie to one parent by the other and 15 per cent said they had even been called on to “spy” for their mother or father.
Meanwhile half of parents polled admitted deliberately drawing out the legal process for maximum benefit and more than two thirds conceded that they had used their children as “bargaining tools”.
About 250,000 couples, both married and non-married, separate every year affecting 350,000 kids, according to the Department for Children Schools and Families.
“The adversarial nature of the system invites people to come and use the courts system as a punch up and the children get used as pawns,” said Sandra Davis, head of family law at Mishcon de Reya, for whom the poll was conducted.
“It polarises parents and it puts children in the middle of the antagonism.
“Some fathers back off because it is too painful to carry on litigating, they give up.”
Tim Loughton, the Tory Shadow children’s minister, said: “This is alarming evidence of the very detrimental impact it is having on the welfare of the children themselves.”
“Clearly, the court system is failing and is positively encouraging conflict – and continuing conflict.”
Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader and founder of the Centre for Social Justice, warned that young people were bearing the scars of a divorce “boom” and a resulting lack of father figures.
“It is a mess, it needs a complete overhaul,” he said. “It is an organisation locked in secrecy and deeply unhelpful to the parents and the children and all too often able to exacerbate the problems that they are about to face.”
David Laws, the Liberal Democrat children’s spokesman, added: “In too many cases the children become caught up in the crossfire between two warring parties in a system which sometimes encourages the parents to take entrenched positions.”
Miss Davis called for compulsory mediation for parents hoping to use the divorce courts rather than the current ”tick box” exercise for those seeking legal aid.
But a spokesman for the Children’s Society said that compulsion “goes against everything we have learned from many, many years of experience”.
Delyth Morgan, the children’s minister, added: “Divorce and separation can have a devastating impact on children caught in the middle.
“But this survey, looking as far back as 20 years ago, simply doesn’t reflect what support is available for families now … we have acted to give families comprehensive counselling, practical and legal support.”
[Source: Article posted in The Telegraph]
Warring parents are increasingly attempting to “brainwash” their children to get the upper hand in custody disputes, according to lawyers.
Solicitors specialising in divorce and child contact say they have noted a marked rise in allegations of one parents exerting undue influence on children to try to turn them against the other.
New mobile phones, computer games, designer clothes and even exotic holidays have been deployed in attempts to win children’s loyalty.
In other cases parents have openly resorted to trying to blacken their former partner’s name in the children’s eyes.
Naomi McGloin, a solicitor at Pannone, said allegations of “brainwashing” had become an increasingly common feature of acrimonious separations in her experience.
Parents desperate to keep their children have attempted to exploit a requirement on the courts to take a child’s feelings into consideration in determining where they should live.
But she said that courts were becoming increasingly wise to the practice and warned it has frequently backfired on parents.
About 90 per cent of the divorce and separation cases Pannone deals with involve children with about one in 10 spiralling into bitter legal disputes over custody or contact.
Almost three quarters of those have involved accusations of parents applying pressure in order to alienate children from the other parent.
“In our experience, allegations of this sort most commonly relate to intense periods of pressure shortly after parents separate, when both know that a decision needs to be made about where a child will live and how often the non-resident parent will get to see them,” she said.
“In some cases which I have dealt with, it has been referred to as ‘brainwashing’.
“It often manifests itself in children who have been subjected to such behaviour expressing very strong feelings about one particular parent.
“The views of older children carry particular weight in court because they are considered more likely to be able to decide things for themselves.
“However, the opinions of younger children are also relevant.
“It seems younger children can be especially vulnerable to attempts to sway them and, by doing so, influence the outcome of proceedings about residence or contact.
“It may well have been a factor in previous years but we have noticed a particular recent rise in the frequency with which these claims are being made.”
Recent figures from the Ministry of Justice showed that the total number of children involved in custody cases after separation had risen since the onset of recession, suggesting that financial pressure had made such disputes even more bitter,
But Miss McGloin warned that courts were increasingly sensitive to parents attempting to coerce children and that it had become a “high-risk strategy”.
“We have seen instances in which parents making all manner of complaints against their former partners have actually seen that partner granted custody or residence as a result,” she said.
“Just as courts have had to bear the wishes of children in mind in determining which parent gets custody, they have become increasingly attuned to attempts to alienate and how detrimental they can be to a child’s well-being.
“Sometimes parents get so caught up in their own disagreements they overlook the fact that their children’s best interests must be paramount .”
A series of letters from an alienated Papa to his adored son
Source: What’s it all about?
Being alienated is a damaging psychological experience for anyone but for children it is devastating, toxic and causes a lifetime of struggle to regain psychological health and wellbeing. This issue is far beyond that of a contact dispute and far beyond that even of conflict or disharmony between parents, it is one which interferes […]
The current work is the first known representative poll of adults (N = 610) aimed at determining the prevalence of parental alienation. Parental alienation describes actions that a parent takes to …