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Parental Alienation in Australia

By May 7, 2018July 1st, 2024No Comments

Following on from our previous blog, “Parental Alienation in family court: the controversy continues”, we took a quick look at some recent cases involving the concepts of Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation in Australia.

In bitter parenting proceedings, it’s not unusual to find parents demonstrating an inability to foster a good relationship between their kids and the other parent, and it typically becomes quite obvious to a courtroom what’s going on.  Judges do recognise child-alienating behaviours on the part of parents, even as they accept that the “Parental Alienation Syndrome” concept is off the table.

In one judgment delivered this month, a court was satisfied that a mother had been making false allegations and had successfully achieved, over a 10 year period of family court litigation, the father’s complete estrangement with his children.  In the Family Court case of Goudarzi & Bagheri, while finding that the “mother has prevented the children from keeping a connection with their father”, the court was unwilling to reverse the residence of the children, mainly due to the children’s ages (12 and 17) and paradoxically because of the prolonged period of influence by the mother.

While the father sought orders that the children live with him, “the children are now so firmly aligned against their father that I do not see that there is any likelihood of this situation being turned around,” the judge said. “Overall I am concerned that the children’s relationship with their father is unlikely to be retrievable at this particular juncture, partly because the alienation that has been happening has been quite effective.”

The mother has strongly expressed, and apparently holds, highly critical views about the father…Some of the views are extreme to the point of being paranoid and incredible. I am confident that the children have been exposed to the mother’s views, at least to some extent. Indeed it is likely that the children have been inculcated with some of the mother’s aberrant views. According to the mother, the father is a paedophile, he has sought out child pornography, he has had sex with minors, he is guilty of identity and revenue fraud, he has colluded with his lawyers, court experts and others to abuse the wife, including having her charged with break and enter, bankrupting her and having her and the children evicted from their home.

The judgment acknowledges that “there is no justification for the current estrangement between the children and their father”, that the mother’s assertions are without factual foundation; that the children have been affected by the mother’s views; that the mother’s views have had a significant effect on the relationship between the children and the father; that the mother’s views about the father are unlikely to change; that the extent to which those views have been imparted to the children, the mother cannot protect the children from those views;  [and] that those views are damaging to the children”.

In attempting to defend herself against allegations of alienation, the mother was at pains to point out that Parental Alienation Syndrome has been discredited. The expert responded:

“You’ve completely misunderstood it. What has been debunked is the idea that there is this neat box that’s called Parental Alienation Syndrome. It’s quite clear…there is absolutely no doubt at all that children can lose a relationship with a parent because of the actions of the other parent.”

In another case involving Parental Alienation in Australia, a judge was argued to have erred “by adopting the single expert’s ‘radical recommendations’ that the children live with the father and spend limited supervised time with the mother”.  These recommendations were argued to be similar to the ‘treatment’ for Parental Alienation Syndrome, which was usually removal of the child from the alienating parent. The mother argued that the expert’s findings therefore must have been that this was a case of Parental Alienation Syndrome. Because PAS has been discredited, the mother argued, the expert’s findings were fatally flawed. The mother asserted that the expert “made his recommendation that the children live with the father because of his views on parental alienation syndrome”. However, when cross-examining the expert, he said: “I didn’t think there was any parental alienation syndrome in this matter”.

And in another case, Matthews & Bender [2013]:

The first ground of the appeal is that I erred in that I made a finding of fact that the mother suffered Parental Alienation Syndrome, which is not a recognised psychiatric condition. Although I referred to the evidence of Dr P at paragraph 176 of my reasons that if the mother’s allegations about the father proved to be unfounded that the description of the child as “alienated’ would be fitting and that it might be reasonable to consider her conduct as indicative of a pattern of active parental alienation, evidence which Dr J agreed with, I did not find that the mother suffered “Parental Alienation Syndrome”.

In other words, although the consensus on Parental Alienation in Australia would appear to be that “Parental Alienation Syndrome” does not exist, a parent’s behaviours can still be found to be alienating and child-aligning.

Would you like legal advice in relation to a parenting or other family law matter? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law Services on (02) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice.  For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law Services.

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