Message from Peter Davies, NAAP, and Andrew John Teague, D.A.D.s, about PA Awareness Day …

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At the moment children and their families are being routinely let down by a system that is supposed to help them when they are in greatest need and at their most vulnerable.

The March also marks the first anniversary of NAAP, The National Association of Alienated Parents, which emerged from online forum DADS, Dads Against Double Standards. NAAP membership has grown to almost 4k whist DADS is supported by 26k membership which has been established in just two years.

The march will be attended and supported by MP Andrew Bridgen and Welsh Assembly member Neil Mcavoy.

What is Parental Alienation? In simple terms Parental Alienation is a kind of psychological manipulation of a child. It occurs when one parent systemically casts the other parent in negative terms.

A leading family court judge, HHJ Stephen Wildblood, defined Parental Alienation in more detailed terms as: ‘A process and the result of the psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent and / or other members of a family. It is a process where one parent’s emotions dominate a child’s relationship with the other parent… it is using children as an instrument of one parent’s skewed emotions.’

In extreme cases of divorce and separation, the child may align with one parent and completely reject the other. Commonly, children will also reject a set of grandparents as well as an entire set of friends and family.

The aligned parent becomes idealised and the personification of all that is good whilst the rejected parent is demonised and considered to be the personification of all that is bad. As awareness increases more and more instances of parentally alienating behaviours are coming to light. Emotional Abuse and public health issues.

Whilst the senior judiciary appear to appreciate the seriousness and potentially fatal effects of parental alienation, this same degree of awareness has been too slow to permeate down through the various levels of the family justice system and many of the professionals who advise the courts.

In 2003 Wall J stated that ‘…parental alienation is a well recognised phenomenon.’ Yet it took until 2018 for Cafcass to launch a program for safeguarding child victims of parental alienation and the mandatory training of all Cafcass social workers is even now still ongoing.

Social workers have failed to keep abreast with case law which impacts upon their professional practice and their ability to safeguard children. To speed up awareness and education NAAP have taken the initiative, published a public report and an educational DVD. The report and DVD have been circulated worldwide and it is the aim of NAAP to ensure that this information reaches everyone involved in the family justice system and parliament. Research and consequences Research in the field is rapidly accumulating and the research has already labelled parental alienation an “unacknowledged form of family violence”.

It has confirmed there are long-term mental health consequences for the children who experience parental alienation, including anxiety, lowered self-esteem and general quality of life, as well as a greater risk of depression and suicide.

Besides causing immense psychological harm to children and placing them at heightened risk of suicide, the simple – yet harrowing – facts are these, mothers and fathers across the globe are killing themselves out of despair after being lied about to their children, lied about to their families, lied about to social workers and lied about to family courts.

Systemic inconsistencies In the worst, or pure alienation cases, a child and parent have their relationship with each other severed by another parent who can also enlist the help of relatives, friends and professionals as allies to the alienation.

The severance of a parent / child relationship is quite simply one of the worst things that one human being can do to another. The traumatic consequences of the severance are the same regardless of whether another person is responsible for the severance or whether the severer is the state and the family court.

The president of the Family court, Sir Andrew MacFarlane, recently illuminated the serious differences and inconsistencies which coexist in the family courts when determining cases that result in the severance of a parent / child relationship under the terms of the Children Act 1989. He contrasted the standard public law situation, where the state steps in to make an adoption order, with four recently published cases in the private law arena which would also inevitably lead to the same outcome i.e. severance of a parent / child relationship. ‘Adoption orders are, rightly, regarded as the most Draconian orders that a family court, or indeed any court, can make. The adoption decision in every case is therefore afforded corresponding respect in terms of time, resources and judicial concern. Based on the evidence provided from the four recent cases that I have cited, I fear that the same cannot be said of potentially intractable contact [parental alienation] cases. 

Sir Andrew’s conclusion is by no means new. He also described how, in each of the four cases he cited, the failure of the court to follow the strict guidance contained in PD 12 J – to carry out a fact finding hearing before ordering welfare reports – had had a profound effect upon the negative and potentially harmful outcomes in the four cases he cited.4 NAAP’s experience As if these differences are not serious enough, Peter Davies, a director of the National Association for Alienated Parents (NAAP), highlights why the situation faced by thousands of parents and children is actually a good deal worse. ‘ Practice direction 12J (PD12 J) provides mandatory guidance and sets out good practice for cases where there are allegations of domestic abuse. It is now 9 years since PD 12 J 5 was first introduced and there has been criticism and complaint about the reticence and antipathy of the judges, social workers and lawyers to employing the practice direction since the day it was first introduced.

Despite being revised in 2017 and in spite of numerous reminders from the more senior judiciary;6 In spite of academic studies highlighting its widespread lack of judicial application;7 in spite of ‘…recurring complaints in Parliament and elsewhere of inadequate compliance with PD12J’; 8 in spite of judgements from the court of appeal reaffirming the significance and mandatory nature of the PD; 9 and, in spite of the personal experiences shared by too many of our members, the situation has not improved in almost a decade which highlights some fundamental problems at the core of our family justice system.

That is, the senior or managerial judiciary appear to have little if any managerial control over an apparent rabble of judges populating the lower courts. In Lord Bingham’s exposition of the ‘Rule of Law’ he concluded that ’ Questions of legal right and liability should ordinarily be resolved by application of the law and not the exercise of discretion’. 10 In the family courts the opposite has been encouraged because too many judges are simply not playing by the rules and few if any of the beneficiaries of the system are doing a damned thing about it. The rules have been waived in favour of an inappropriate and excessive amount of judicial discretion. It is as if Magna Carta never happened. Litigants and their families deserve more certainty and appropriate guidance. Instead they are given a roulette wheel. What is the point of having standards and rules which cannot be or which the courts refuse to 4 ibid 5 ‘The purpose of this Practice Direction is to set out what the Family Court or the High Court is required to do in any case in which it is alleged or admitted, or there is other reason to believe, that the child or a party has experienced domestic abuse perpetrated by another party or that there is a risk of such abuse.’ It further requires that under such circumstances the court carries out a finding of fact hearing at an early stage in proceedings and before ordering welfare reports. 6 ibid 7 Hunter, Rosemary and Barnett, Adrienne (2013) Fact-Finding Hearings and the Implementation of the President’s Practice Direction: Residence and Contact Cases: Domestic Violence and Harm. Project report. Family Justice Council. Para 15.1 ‘The primary research question underpinning this study was whether the Domestic Violence Practice Direction is operating in the way it was intended to do. The survey results suggest that it is not operating as intended. Fact-finding hearings appear not to be held any more often than before the advent of the Practice Direction, and are actively avoided by many courts.  Lord_Binghams_Eight_Principles -The_Rule_of_Law enforce? We elect parliament to make rules and laws. Judges swear an oath to, …do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.’ We want the judiciary, the legislature and the executive to do the jobs that they are paid eye watering sums of our money to do.

 • When the family court routinely fails to use its powers to enforce orders it sends out damaging signals that all orders made in the family courts are optional and meaningless.

• When the family court makes orders that are incapable of being enforced it is both disrespectful to and wasting the time of litigants. It casts the courts as pointless, feckless and worthless officials.

 • When lawyers do not tell courts that their orders are incapable of being enforced they are taking the Micky and literally parasitising the misery of those paying their bloated salaries for pieces of paper that are useless.… literally not even worth the paper the orders are written on.

Sir James Munby spoon fed the courts by drafting model orders for the lawyers and judges to follow.

It is frustrating they behave like unruly teenagers at bath time by refusing to follow Sir James’ examples.

• When the court pays scant regard to cornerstone principles such as S.1 (2) of the children Act 1989 which affirms that, ‘ In any proceedings in which any question with respect to the upbringing of a child arises, the court shall have regard to the general principle that any delay in determining the question is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child.’ It implies that the rule of law is at best discretionary and at worst a joke.

 • When the court does not implement the will of parliament to apply the laws they have made it sends out very damaging and disillusioning signals to the electorate and worst of all it sends a message to the children affected that rules and authority are optional and discretionary. It provides a quite dreadful role model to impressionable youngsters.

Why are delays routinely caused by and tolerated in the family court when the consequences of them are inimical to the welfare of ALL parties to proceedings with the exception of those parents who have lied to excuse appalling behaviour, in order to cause harm, to extend proceedings and prolong the agony for left behind parents, families and their children?

More than anything else the system seems to be devoid of an y understanding or empathy for one of its main customer groups. The lived experience for victims of parental alienation is deeply painful. What more painful thing than to know you’ve got a child and you’re not allowed to see the child because someone says that you can’t for fabricated and nasty reasons?

 It relates to the person that you are; it is being said that the person that you are is such that you can’t even see your child. It defies nature. It leaves a sense of deep isolation. It leaves a sense of deep frustration, gross unfairness and powerlessness. We need to help these families and the family justice system needs to be available to otherwise ‘unimpeachable’ parents 11 in their greatest hour of need. Instead of receiving empathy and understanding they are being kicked whilst they are down. It is abhorrent, like going through the pockets of dead people. It’s high time we described it as it is.

Change is long overdue.

It is easy to empathise with the pain and strain of being excluded, shunned and banished from one’s children’s lives. It can be an unbearable burden for some and who can honestly blame them for throwing in the towel when being forced to live the stuff of nightmares.

To add to this welter of problems the harsh facts are that family separation subjects us to 11 A (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 1104 increased financial burdens, impacts upon our ability to do our jobs, frequently involves moving home, causes physical and mental health problems, turns us into bad company effectively isolating us and it is soon apparent that the situation for a depressingly large number of parents amounts to a hellish-perfect storm of anguish and wretchedness.

Enough is rarely as much and easily bears the capacity to become simply too much. Inevitably this cocktail of the worst, most challenging and stress packed events that life can throw at us can and does lead to incurable side effects of depression and PTSD. The worst of these incurable side effects involve no prospect of recovery. Apart from being a tragedy for families and friends, suicide has no known cure. One of the founders of NAAP and founder of D.A.D.S, Andrew Teague described how: Barely a day goes by without us receiving calls from members who are literally at their wits end, utterly desperate and suicidal. Usually we are able to help each other and there have been so many sleepless nights doing just that.

 Sadly, this is not always the case and there have been instances where parents have committed suicide and taken their own lives. Few people are not touched in some way by parental alienation. Although people have often not heard of it we have observed that as soon as the signs and indications are explained then everyone will always know of someone that has been affected by it. It is an epidemic that is infecting those closest to us right under our noses and very few people in power seem to give a damn.

The system trivialises parental alienation and refuses to take the phenomenon seriously. The courts is reluctant to use the powers it has to stamp out parental alienation and deal with it quickly and effectively. People enter the family justice system expecting justice. They leave it feeling like they have been mugged and beaten. NAAP wants everyone to appreciate the hell that parents and children affected by Parental alienation are forced to go through.

 At the moment it is treated differently to any other form of child abuse. In what other situation would the courts contemplate leaving the child with an abusive parent to endure years of deliberate harm and misery? This is what has been happening whilst so many bystanders avert their gazes and this is what needs to change. Too many children have had their childhood and adult lives ruined while those who should have known better have been content to bicker about it. Our perceptions need to change drastically. Alienating behaviours should be no more acceptable than blowing cigarette smoke in a child’s face or failing to strap a baby into a safe child seat for journeys. There is no argument here.

 The courts found that Parentally Alienating behaviours were sufficiently abusive to cross the public law threshold of harm as long ago as 2003.12 In the meantime many children have been badly let down when the courts and Cafcass have failed to adequately safeguard them. It is a scandal of international proportions.

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2 thoughts on “Message from Peter Davies, NAAP, and Andrew John Teague, D.A.D.s, about PA Awareness Day …

  1. This is an extremely good article I am a mother who’s experiencing all that was said above written by Peter Davies and Andrew John Teague, I wish I could speak to anyone here can you please contact me ?

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A personal message from Andrew John Teague about Parental Alienation Awareness Day ...

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