We received a petition asking:
“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to PASS PAS(Parental Alienation Syndrome).”
Details of Petition:
“For quite some time now PAS (parental alienation syndrome)has been accepted in the USA courts and have procedures to prevent this form of child abuse. We feel that it is about time the UK courts take this in to consideration in child custody and contact cases. In many cases the courts have turned a blind eye to parents who show clear signs of PAS(Parental alienation Syndrome)as there is now law or guidelines to prevent this. PAS is the systematic denigration by one parent by the other with the intent of alienating the child against the other parent.”
Read the Government’s response
The Government believes that children benefit from a continuing relationship with both parents following divorce or separation, where it is safe and in the child’s best interests. The Children Act 1989 supports this and, most importantly, it makes the welfare of the child concerned, rather than the rights of the parents, its paramount consideration. While most parents can and do resolve issues about contact and residence following separation or divorce, the court becomes involved if either parent applies for an order for residence or contact. The court has a wide discretion to take account of all the facts and circumstances of each individual case. Decisions are made after the judge has heard and considered all the evidence provided by both parties and any other witnesses, including experts. Both parties are entitled to have their views heard and have the opportunity to respond to any evidence put before the court. If arrangements under a court order do not work out, either parent may, according to the circumstances, apply to the court for the order to be varied, revoked, or enforced.
We need to change the way parents settle disputes. In particular, we would like to see a reduction in the number of parents resorting to the courts, as this so often results in poorer outcomes for the children and greater dissatisfaction for the parents. Where cases do come before the court, we are promoting extensive use of measures such as mediation and in-court conciliation to divert such cases from a full court hearing. Linked to this, we also want to provide a wider range of levers to ensure the proper implementation of court orders.
The Government realise there are cases where non-resident parents have difficulty in maintaining contact with their children because of the obstructive behaviour of the parent with whom the children reside. Where contact has been agreed or ordered by the courts, it is essential that it is adhered to. If, at the end of a long and difficult dispute, the contact ordered by the court does not take place, then it has been a waste of time and energy but, more importantly, the child is not benefiting from what the court has decided will promote their welfare. The enforcement of contact orders is a sensitive area. Deliberate refusal to obey any court order is contempt of court that can be punished with a fine or community work. The court also has the power to decide to transfer residence to the other (non-resident) parent if this is considered to be in the child’s best interests.
However, penalties such as fines and community work may not always be appropriate in a child contact case because of the effect that this may have on the children at the centre of the dispute. The Children and Adoption Act 2006 gives courts additional powers to facilitate contact and enforce contact orders. For instance, in addition to the current system of fines and community work, they will be able to refer parents to a counsellor or a parenting programme or make enforcement orders imposing requirements for unpaid work.
The Government understands that some people believe a legal presumption of contact is needed to stop the courts from denying contact to perfectly fit parents without good reason. However, the Government does not believe a presumption of contact could ever be the solution in contact cases. Inevitably, such a presumption would move the starting point of the courts, requiring them to make a particular kind of order unless presented with strong evidence why they should not. That is fundamentally different to starting from the position of the “best interests of the child“, and, most importantly, it would move the courts away from making the welfare of the child its paramount consideration.
The Government believes that parents should work together to agree contact and residence arrangements themselves and in the best interests of their children. The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) works with parents who have been unable to agree arrangements, to help them resolve their disputes, where it is safe to do so and in the child’s best interests. Denying a child contact with one of its parents is not usually in the child’s best interests, but it is for the courts to decide whether or not a child has suffered serious harm or is at risk of suffering serious harm, in the circumstances of each case.