7 January 2020

Missing a parent

By Maria Endall, family solicitor, Hayes + Storr.

When a child loses a parent, through death, divorce or separation, the impact is often significant and long-lasting.

This is bad enough for a child whose loss is owing to the death of a parent, but what if one parent is preventing contact with the other post-separation? No matter how well intended a parent might consider this sort of intervention to be, it has been well researched that the consequences of such actions can have the opposite effect, and cause the child unnecessary suffering and long-term damage.

Not involving yourself in your child’s life, or being prevented from seeing your child by the other parent, can cause feelings of rejection and grief for your child. To make matters worse, the child may feel unable to grieve properly if they have been drawn into conflict.

Where one parent prevents the other from having a normal, positive relationship with a child, it is known in family law proceedings as ‘parental alienation’ or ‘intractable hostility’ and is considered extremely damaging to the child and is increasingly being recognised as a form of child abuse.

In certain cases where parental alienation is established, the courts will increasingly consider transferring residency of the child to the alienated parent in order to reunify the child with that important missing link in their life, and address the emotional trauma they have suffered up to that point. The courts aim is to ensure that both children and adults are kept safe, and to enable children to maintain relationships with both parents where it is safe and in the child’s best interests to do so.

No matter how parents may feel about one another after a separation, the importance of keeping the child’s well-being as the main focus, cannot be understated. It should be remembered that it is the child’s right to have a positive relationship with both his or her parents, and it is both parents’ responsibility to ensure this happens.

This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek our specific advice.


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