United Nations consultation on parental alienation and contact

Ms. Reem Alsalem (Jordan), the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences, has issued a call for evidence on the nexus between custody and guardianship cases, violence against women and violence against children, with a focus on the abuse of the concept of “parental alienation” and related or similar concepts.

In our Response Shared Parenting Scotland expresses concern that this call for inputs is based on generalised assertions that are not well founded. It presents an incomplete, inaccurate and prejudicial picture of a very important and serious issue in statements such as “the parental alienation concept has become a tool for denial of domestic and child abuse” and “regular and widespread dismissal of intimate partner violence history and incidents by family courts”.

Our knowledge of court cases conducted in Scotland does not support these statements.  These issues are taken very seriously in Scottish courts and proven abuse is often the reason for restricting or stopping contact.

If anything, the sense of frustration is experienced by fathers who have experienced abuse but who find it difficult to have their reports accepted by Police and who may be advised by their legal representatives not to mention such experience in court for fear of it rebounding on them.

Our experience, supported by a number of recent Scottish and English court decisions, is that the unjustified rejection of one parent due to the intentional or unwitting influence of the other parent does happen in some families after separation.  The features that fall within the description of Parental Alienation are present in such cases.  We know of both fathers and mothers in Scotland who have been rejected in this manner.

The response on UN request by the International Council on Shared Parenting also expresses concern about the unsupported premise and the gender-biased perspective on intimate partner violence (IPV) of this initiative.

They conclude that: “Denying and demonizing Parental Alienation (PA) is not the solution. Research and education on all forms of abuse from a gender inclusive perspective, including PA, needs to be supported to create effective assessment and intervention programs.”