Legal experts dealing with family breakdown are witnessing more parents using their children as weapons in their own relationship breakdowns – a situation called parental alienation.
Parental alienation happens when one parent manipulates their children into believing the other parent is “all bad” – usually to score points in their own relationship breakdown and to gain control over the situation.
Family courts in the UK, it has been reported, have seen an increase in parental alienation cases over the last two to three years and lawyers, judges and social workers are all experienced in such cases.
Family law expert Dewinder Birk said: “Family separation is always a very difficult and emotional situation to resolve for the parties involved and parental alienation is a particular risk if the separation is acrimonious.
“When parental alienation arises, it is essential not just to address the hostile parent’s behaviour but also to consider what course of action is in the best interests of the child, with a view to promoting a relationship with both parents whilst trying to minimise further trauma or distress.
“Instructing an experienced lawyer helps remove some of the emotion from the situation and can also help prevent costs spiralling, especially in instances where professional witnesses are being called.”
Dewinder added: “In the first instance mediation is the way to achieve a ‘healthy and happy’ family separation, but where this cannot be achieved, I would advise parties to instruct a lawyer who can be guaranteed to act thoughtfully and responsibly in everyone’s best interests.”
Dewinder Birk is a barrister specialising in Family Law at No5 Barristers’ Chambers.