Identifying the signs of parental alienation
Any professional reading the above cases should ask themselves whether they would have picked up on the warning signs? In addition to major warning signs, which when summarised can seem so clear, there may be cases in which this is in fact far more subtle. Such subtle indicators were seen in Re D itself. In father’s evidence he indicated that D had become privy to information that he believed D to be unaware of and was questioning how he came to find out such information. This information related to a historic drink driving offence that the father had been convicted of and which was used by D to undermine the father’s character in his evidence. This is an example of one parent drip feeding negative information about the other parent to manipulate the child’s view of them. Another subtle behaviour that has been identified is where one parent repeatedly demonises normal, excusable behaviour by the other parent. For example, where one parent takes their child to swimming lessons or sports competitions and makes remarks such as, “I hope your mother/father can be bothered to turn up”, or “I hope your mother/father doesn’t let you down again”, therefore resulting in the child becoming upset and feeling let down when the other parent has not been able to make it, usually for some good reason, such as a medical appointment or busy traffic or where they were never infact told they could attend. Hopefully however with training in place for CAFCASS and children law professionals and the wide reporting of cases such as Re A, D and L the early warning signs may be taken notice of. Earlier identification and response by professionals may have prevented the level of harm suffered by D in this case, and the relationship may have been left at least rectifiable.