Cafcass reissues position on parental alienation

20 June 2022: Please note that the information on this page is no longer current. Please refer to our page on alienating behaviours.

Cafcass’ position on parental alienation remains as set out in our child impact assessment framework. We define parental alienation as the unjustified resistance or hostility from a child towards one parent as a result of psychological manipulation by the other parent. We understand that cases where parental alienation features are complex, requiring finely balanced assessment and decision-making, and that the impact of any final decision made by the courts can be life-changing for the parent and child subjected to alienating behaviour. Our role is to establish the impact of alienating behaviours on the child concerned, where these are present, and to recommend to the courts what referrals, intervention or support is needed to end or lessen any harmful impact.

It has come to our attention that there have recently been some false statements on social media about Dr Adrienne Barnett’s views about parental alienation. These give the impression that the quotes attributed to Dr Barnett were made in her capacity as a member of the Cafcass Research Advisory Committee. These statements falsely suggested that the views of Dr Adrienne Barnett about parental alienation were the views of Cafcass.

Dr Barnett is a member of our recently established Research Advisory Committee. All our Research Advisory Committee members provide a highly valued service to Cafcass. However, they act independently in their own professional capacity, they are not employees of Cafcass and do not represent the views of the organisation. Dr Barnett has always appropriately maintained this distinction and the suggestion that she speaks on our behalf has not come from her or from us.

The purposes of the Research Advisory Committee are to: provide independent advice to and scrutiny of the decisions we make about access to our case data for research purposes; and to share research intelligence and help us consider the implications for our social work practice. We are pleased to have a committee that is highly experienced in family justice research, the Family Justice Young People’s Board also sit on the committee and play a key role, ensuring that children and young people remain at the heart of all the decisions made.


I believe the best thing to do is make set rules as how to handle a separation in terms of time for each parent.
It does not make sense that the legal system taking months or years to drag on cases giving more time for the narcissistic parent to keep the children on his/her own and allow him /her to brainwash the children to hate the other parent who has already been alienated.
As I know from experience of many parents, it usually takes about 1 to 2 years time for the court to reach final hearing. That is robbing the precious time of someone’s childhood, having to live without contact with a parent.
Why can’t he lawmakers make set rules giving set times for each parent to connect with the children after any separation.
(eg: minimum one day a week legal eligibility for the parent who is not living with children in the same house)
Still the legal system in UK is very outdated . It does not recognise the ‘narcissistic’ behaviour or parental alienation as a crime.
I do not understand why these lawmakers wait until a divorce or separation to make a big scene , taking months or years to decide on these basic things which even a child can decide instantly.
Just like Brexit- always, they think what to do only AFTER, not before joining EU.
I believe laws should be proactive. not reactive.
Before allowing people to get married or have children they must make parenting courses compulsory.
Also, marriage or ‘becoming a parent’ agreement must include (a) how they name children,(b) handle a divorce in terms of spending time with future children in case of separation, (c) how the properties are divided etc.
So, people know what they are getting into before children are born- no confusion.
It is inhumane that some people in certain positions make money out of other people’s problems.
In general, before making any agreement in all cases, there should be an arrangement how to handle things when it ends.
This will create stability for children.

There are so many levels of parental alienation, I’m not sure all of them are recognised by those who need to recognise them or are obvious enough. I know of a situation where the alienating parent is doing subtle things like trying to put a very young child off calling his father, simply by ensuring that it’s so late in the evening that the child is too tired to do so. This is instilling in the child that the phone call is going to be something that they would prefer not to be doing, purely because they are tired. Done enough times, the child will associate this awful sensation with talking to his father on the phone and eventually be put off and probably refuse to do so in the future. When the alienating parent is asked why doesn’t the child call the alienated parent, they can purely say that the child doesn’t want to call them and that they won’t force them to do so (forcing would be being nasty to the child, of course). This is a level of alienation and brainwashing that will no doubt be missed. Please take heed all those who want to do the right thing for these innocent and defenceless children and their fathers, whose lives and souls are destroyed by this insidious evil.

My husband was alienated from his daughter from the age of 4, which sadly was the last time he saw her. He has always written to her, sent gifts and cards, many of which were returned unopened. He applied for a contact order and was offered indirect contact. His daughter is now 20 and has been manipulated into thinking he is not a safe place emotionally for her. He is a wonderful father to our 7 year old daughter and his ex and the man she was having an affair with undoubtedly set out to exclude him. He still maintains contact wherever possible but it’s tragic that this is allowed to happen to families.

Cafcass ,when representing parents through country courts,when a absent parent has no threats recognised against the absent parent .Then why are the decisions made to stop all contacts between child and absent parent cancelled because lack of contact through contact centre,on the grounds of the primary parent cancelled to attend. A child needs both parents in their lives and when both parents split and both parents aren’t a threat to their child ,where is the justice???

Oh it so so hard, I’m a step mother of an emotionally abused child that lives with me and his Dad. The older sibling is still under the mothers care. The mother has her problems but the that the older child is suffering. My step son had ran away and told us everything that was happening, but the mother had told the court that we were actually alienating him to the courts and everyone that would listen. After much cost, psychological reports etc, the courts and cafcass agreed that the mother was to blame through jealousy and bitterness. But what happens to the older sibling?? I feel she’s in emotional distress but with no help from the mother.. I care, so deeply about her. What should I do?? The avenues are not there, and I feel helpless.. Alienation is a real thing but it can also be used as revenge.

I’m personally gratified to hear of Cafcass’s confirmation of their drive to identify and remediate the appalling consequences of alienating behaviours such as PA on children and on separated families generally. It’s a shame it took so many years before Cafcass and the courts finally reached for the nettle of alienating behaviours. Now they must grasp it!

Speaking from personal experience and in a personal capacity, I believe that from the first moment that a parent (even before separation) embarks on a pattern of controlling or undermining the other parent in the children’s eyes, those children’s future is at risk of being compromised. The harm builds up every single day in such cases, shutting the child into a prison from which it is so hard to safely escape.

Whilst I welcome the participation of all who would like to bring hope and eliminate harm to children in separated families, it is essential to recognise the bunfight which many such families experience after separation and which can hijack parenthood completely for the whole family. What is needed here is a process and a campaign highlighting parents’ irresponsible behaviour during and after separation. The current fashion for gendered politics and recriminations must end – it has no useful purpose. It is good to see Cafcass focussing on the longer-term welfare of children. This is very welcome. As is often suggested, those who are not a part of a solution may be a part of the problem.

I would like to know why then if parental alienation is evident , that the alienation is allowed to further continue without proper interventions from cafcass or the courts to prevent furthering the emotional damage to the children ? Shouldn’t there be a situation where if this is evident , in particular since covid 19 , where parents are taking advantage of the pandemic and parents, in particular fathers ,who have been alienated are punished by the flaws in the system due to lack of early intervention and action .

Parental Alienation will always remain what it is.. Child Abuse..

In 2011, family court australia expanded the definition of family violence in the family law act to incorporate notions of coercion and control. (which are not always accompanied by physical violence or threats). The definition of child abuse was amended to include serious psychological harm arising from the child being subjected to or exposed to family violence. Examples of family violence include : preventing the family member from making or keeping connections with his or her family, friends or culture

I find it very concerning that you should have someone on the advisory board who does not work at the coalface and as far as I can see never has. Working as a legal professional within these very complex cases often gives a truncated view, the chances of actually meeting children in these cases often remote and their presentation totally misunderstood. Polarised views based on ideology are frankly dangerous for the children who are being harmed in sometimes the most subtle and cruel ways and at other times totally unconsciously. The reasons are are always very very complicated and unless understood the wrong decisions are made. Absolute viewpoints are not helpful and spread ignorance.

I feel that the manipulation by the alienating parent, is extremely manipulative and because of their ability to cover themselves and bury their abuse, Cafcass and all social workers involved need to be trained about this psychological disturbance in such parents. I have had to work through this minefield alone, and because of this l have lost vital years of my sons life from four till eleven and am still having to be extremely careful how l handle my ex partner.l have had to do courses concerning this abuse and take advice from books and videos, when l could have benefited enormously from legal insight and protection, which could have meant my son and l would not have suffered as we have.

What exactly is your stance on parental alienation? I told the cafcass worker assigned to my case my ex was alienating my children against me. It took 2 years for her to listen and get a forensic psychologist involved who confirmed alienation- everything I said was true. But 2 years down the line the damage to my children was so devastating that they could not be returned to me, yet had the psychologist been involved at the start – when I asked for one – she would have removed them from my ex’s care.
CAFCASS is not fit for purpose in this instance and effectively facilitated the alienation of my children. You could have stopped this and prevented the harm done to my children in your capacity as experts but you let them and myself down tremendously.

If Cafcass would share the views of Dr Barnett and act in a way that would protect our children, children would be able to grow up safely.
Another missed chance for Cafcass!

This is all a little to late for me. As a result of Cafcass and the courts I DO NOT see my three children anymore. My children said that they’d still wish for contact to remain 50/50 in the 1st report. Then in the 2nd report it was almost the same. Then my narcissistic ex wife requested another. Even though it was highlighted by the (expert who admitted she was just a social worker) from Cafcass the probability of Alienation. Your social worker suggested 3 hours every two weeks. I have not seen my children since. So thank you. If you would wish to discuss with me further then please get in touch. I’d love the opportunity to help you in these failures to me and countless others.
Kind regards
Ian O’Kane

Cafcass in our family court case didnt recognise PA despite clear signs being present. I rang back the officer after having my interview with her as she wrote down hardly anything of the information i gave to her. Some of the information she wrote down incorrectly. When i asked her why she wrote that she said it was her interpretation of what i meant. Her views simply echoed the views of the social worker it was clear to me she had made her decision before even interviewing everyone which surely is an unfair judgement.
In my opinion cafcass require more in depth training in recognising this form of child abuse and domestic abuse to prevent further harm of our children.

Maybe Cafcass should change their position?
How can anyone but a trained psychologist judge whether or not a child has been manipulated in such a way?
It is about time that domestic violence and it’s victims were taken seriously in the court room. The judges are not experts in this area and to simply sweep it under the carpet because they lack the knowledge, expertise and often plain empathy to deal with such situations is no excuse! People’s lives are often altered forever based on these decisions.
Cafcass officers are not without their biases and are often manipulated by perpetrators of domestic violence and other abuse.
For an officer to make a decision that potentially affects several people’s lives based off a 10 minute meeting with a child and a phone call with a parent is utterly ridiculous.
How is this justifiable?

Dr Barnett is a very clever and highly esteemed professional and I am very pleased CAFCAS is taking her views more seriously than fake-experts appointed through shocking think-tanks and profiteering rackets such as Mindful Policy Group and its directors. Sadly this comes too little too late for many of us whose CAFCAS officers were belligerent and totally incapable of what was justified resistance and UNjustified resistance and made sweeping judgements and opinions based on what can only be a dearth of susbstantial or even adequate training. If Dr Barnett had been on board sooner and not charlatans peddling now debunked theories then things would be very different for many children and they wouldn’t have been subjected to horrendous CAFCAS reports that were woefully inadequate, inaccurate, baseless and untrue.

We are pleased to see the reissue of Cafcass position on parental alienation – an issue which seriously psychologically harms countless children in contested court hearings.
There is nothing false about the social media post. These are the views of a person with huge influence who sits on your advisory group – yet believes PA ‘is a con’.
The quote we use is taken from a public blog for Womens Aid ( SAFE) and describes what is effectively alienating behaviours as a ‘strategy of domestic abuse’ which it undoubtedly is. The crucial issue here is it is gender biased when there is no difference between the devastating experiences of thousands of victim parents we work alongside.
1 PA is a strategy of domestic abuse – evidenced by Dr Barnetts own writing
2 She sits on your advisory group with a conflict of interest
3 If we do not raise awareness of this conflict and also evidence how her work has been deconstructed to show much of it is flawed – tens of thousands of children will be adversely impacted.
We believe child protection supersedes all other considerations.

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