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Government Announces New Strategy to Deal with Concept of Parental Alienation

By July 21, 2023June 26th, 2024No Comments

Government Announces New Strategy to Deal with Concept of Parental Alienation

Acting Minister for Justice Simon Harris published a policy paper and outcome of research that had been conducted on the very difficult and complex area of parental alienation on the 25th May 2023.

The Department of Justice has launched a public consultation in May 2022 giving individuals and organisations an opportunity to offer their views on the issue. Over 450 responses were received to the public consultation including 19 from interested organisations.

Amongst the views expressed were suggestions related to:

  1. Improving family law services,
  2. Listening to the voice of the child,
  3. The introduction of additional training for all family law professionals,
  4. Enforcement of Court orders,
  5. Mandatory reunification programmes,
  6. Better access to support and counselling.

Less than 20% of the respondents felt that legislation should be used to address the issue and this is a position that has been endorsed by the Government.

The research offered the following views:

  1. That while the term parental alienation is widely used, there is no common definition of description of it.
  2. The scientific basis of the concept in studies identifying its existence lack methodological rigour.
  3. There have been challenges in relation to the assessment of parental alienation through the use of s.32 and s.47 reports.

The interventions directed by the Court have been very narrow where parental alienation was found to have occurred. These included family and parent orientated therapeutic interventions and directions and in other jurisdictions, the transfer of custody.

The policy paper published by the Government has made the following recommendations:

  1. Priority is to be given to the voice of the child and to support children through their journey through the system.
  2. To examine how expert reports are conducted, what they contain and how assessors are appointed and to provide additional training for those tasked for compiling assessments, particularly in relation to the dynamics that prevail in family breakdown.
  3. To carry out a review of the assessment tools currently available to the courts with a view to making recommendations to improve them as well as identifying how to assist judges in considering issues on a case-by-case basis.
  4. Support and extend family support services including ADR.
  5. Improve training and awareness among legal professionals and those involved in high conflict proceedings to increase their understanding of the concepts and descriptors associated with the behaviours of parents and children in these situations.
  6. Establish and in some areas improve data collection on family justice issues.
  7. The minister highlighted the need to place the children at the heart of the system and about putting in place training for professionals dealing with these complex issues and highlighted the government’s determination to overhaul the operation of the family justice system to ensure a more efficient and user friendly family court process.

Time will tell whether the government will match these laudable sentiments with appropriate funding to ensure that the recommendations are fully implemented and that this very complex and divisive concept can be better understood by all involved and that most importantly that in every family law breakdown that children are encouraged and given the ‘psychological permission’ to love both parents.

If you are involved in a high-conflict family law situation or indeed in any family breakdown, please do not hesitate to contact Brendan Dillon, Erika Coughlan or Aoife Cathcart on 012960666.