A (Children)(Parental Alienation), Re  9 WLUK 445
There had been 36 hearings over a six-year period during this dispute between the children's parents before the court embarked on its first full hearing on evidence in 2017. The court considered that a transfer of living arrangements from the mother to the father was necessary and ordered that the children should live with the father for seven weeks and not see the mother during that period. This went badly, with the children being very distressed. They returned to the mother less than a month later. The professionals in the case considered that the mother had alienated the children from the father. There was no suggestion by any of the experts that the father was anything other than a loving, good father. The father ultimately withdrew his application.
The Court considered that what had occurred within the family was likely to cause the children significant emotional harm. However, the experts had concluded that continuing the proceedings would be contrary to their welfare. There had been a failure to identify the parental alienation at an earlier stage before the damage was done. The Court reiterated that early intervention was crucial in such a case. By the time it had been identified in this case, it was too late and the children's views had become entrenched. There had been many adjournments to "review" matters and no full hearing until 2017, despite proceedings having started in 2011. The Judge was critical about the planning for the move of residence, which had been insufficient. He considered that the professionals had not worked collaboratively and had even voiced differences of opinion in front of family members during the attempted move of the children.
Sandra Davis comments: "This case is a striking example of the need to approach cases where alienation is an issue robustly and strategically. The sooner the issues can be addressed, the less polarised and the less intractable the parents' position is likely to be. On the ground, the most challenging problem is when a child has no real time with one parent and becomes distressed even at the thought of seeing them. There is only so much the court can do and notwithstanding therapeutic assistance, the potential difficulties of a change in living arrangements are enormous and should not be under-estimated. The sooner the issues can be substantively addressed, the better".