Cafcass is developing a new pathway aimed at improving its approach to high-conflict cases.
The High Conflict Practice Pathway provides guidance, research and tools to practitioners so they can approach high-conflict cases consistently with an effective, evidence-based approach.
It uses the same approach as the Domestic Abuse Practice Pathway, which was introduced to support and strengthen the systematic assessment of cases involving domestic abuse or domestic abuse allegations.
The new pathway will be used when it is clear that concerns relating to domestic abuse are not a feature in a case.
The new guidance encourages early identification of high-conflict cases and builds on existing resources to help practitioners find an outcome which is truly in the best interests of the children involved.
The new pathway addresses a variety of common features in high-conflict cases such as parental alienation, which is best seen as a broad spectrum of behaviours with varying impact.
Practitioners and managers from throughout Cafcass have been involved in developing the pathway and are continuing to contribute to its development. Cafcass will also seek views from sector experts to help develop the pathway before national launch in the first quarter of next year.
Speaking to The Guardian about the High Conflict Practice Pathway, Cafcass Assistant Director Sarah Parsons explained that the current, popular view of parental alienation is highly polarised.
She said: "We want to reclaim the centreground and develop a more nuanced, sophisticated understanding of what's going on."
The child's needs, wishes and feelings are the focus of all Cafcass' work when advising the court on who they should live with or spend time with. Each case is assessed individually and the final decision is made by the court.
Our webpages for parents have more information on the High Conflict Practice Pathway.