DISCLAIMER: The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of any
individual, organisation or project to whom the author is or has been associated or contracted either formally or informally.
Parental alienation is the enactment of power and control over a targeted parent through a child or children by an alienating parent. To that extent, it falls within the widely accepted definitions of domestic violence and abuse which are enshrined in legislation and policy around the world. However, in my experience, whilst domestic violence and abuse may be recognised as an element of the relationship between parents in dispute over children matters, the professionals who advise the courts rarely, if ever, approach the case with an understanding that a child’s rejecting position may be the extension of a pattern of domestic abuse that has been present between the parents whilst the family was together.
Whilst the family courts and the professionals who advise them often recommend family therapy in high conflict cases where children are rejecting one of their parents, systemic family therapy faces the charge that it is not only an ineffective response to parental alienation but is, in many cases, likely to make things worse.
Confidentiality is one of the cornerstones of mediation; the principle that what is revealed during the process may not later be used in court and that it is ‘without prejudice’ if there is a failure to reach a mediated settlement. This principle gives many the confidence to attempt to reach a mediated settlement who would otherwise be reluctant to do so. It also encourages parties to be open and candid throughout the process. However, things become a little more equivocal when it comes to the ‘evidence’ that parties bring to the process.