A recent High Court decision dated 18 September 2014 has looked into the issue of parental alienation.  


Parental alienation occurs when, as a result of the actions of one parent, a child is “turned-against” or alienated from the other parent. For obvious reasons the Family Court takes a very dim view of this kind of behaviour and the damage it causes the relationship between a child and their parent. Judge’s face a dilemma however when the alienation has gone on too long and the child has reached an age where forcing them to build a relationship with a parent they don’t wish to see is likely to do more harm than good.  


The Honourable Justice Gilbert was recently faced with such a situation where a father appealed to the High Court, from a Family Court decision which restricted his contact with his nine-year old son to occasional letter writing and telephone contact. In 2010 when the child was just five years old, the Family Court had found the alienation had primarily been caused by the mother and made an order for ongoing supervised contact with the father. Unfortunately, as the child was unwilling to participate in contact, the father brought the issue again before the Family Court.


By this stage however the child was nine years old and the Family Court held that further orders requiring contact would be extremely unlikely to succeed, carried a high risk of creating further hostility, and would be contrary to the child’s best interests and welfare. The High Court agreed with the Family Court decision and dismissed the father’s appeal.  


This is an unfortunate and difficult situation for those involved and alienation is an all-too common problem faced by the Courts. The best advice we can give people who are concerned their child/children are being alienated against them is to stay involved in their lives as much as possible. Seek legal advice early to ensure your parental rights are protected and try to avoid delaying matters until your child’s views become too entrenched.  


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