Separation and Children – They Just Want Peace!

Information on an upcoming Australian Institute of Family Studies (FIFS) seminar series presentation highlights some of the difficulties involved for children of separating parents.

Little boy in red t shirt blocking his ears

Separation and children - they just want peace!

Conflict between parents is the most difficult aspect of separation for the children of a disintegrating relationship. Study after study, here and around the world, has shown that children of a break-up don’t focus on the percentage of nights they will spend with each parent.  Rather, when it comes to separation and children, they just want peace.

When conflict between parents remains high for months and years after the separation, parents often have to deal with the reluctance, or downright refusal, of children to spend time with one or other parent.

It’s called Parental Alienation and Professor Nick Bala of Queens University, Kingston, Canada, says it’s no easy matter for courts to intervene and determine what is best for children in these cases.

Professor Bala is in Australia to present a paper at the Australian Institute of Family Studies in Melbourne.  He acknowledges the complexities and the difficulties of getting enough information on which to intervene helpfully:

“Although in high conflict separations some children maintain good relationships with both parents, many children become resistant to contact with one parent. Cases with contact problems pose great challenges for courts and other family justice professionals, in terms of ascertaining facts, understanding complex dynamics and making decisions about how to intervene in managing parent-child relationships.

In some cases the child’s rejection of a parent is justified by abuse, poor parenting or tensions within a stepfamily (estrangement). Alienation occurs if one parent undermines the child’s relationship with the other parent, resulting in the child’s rejection of that parent based not on the child’s own experiences with the rejected parent but rather reflecting the attitude of the alienating parent.”

Whether you are the parent with primary responsibility (who would like a break from constant responsibility and some ‘me’ time) or the other parent (who can’t accept that a child doesn’t want to spend time with you), it is difficult to know how to resolve the problem.  Some parents believe that it’s simply a matter of putting the child in the car and driving them to the meeting point.  Others hesitate to physically strap a protesting, crying child into a seatbelt and insist they see the other parent.

What is a magistrate to do, to intervene in the best interests of the children?

Professor Bala says:

“While there are various sanctions and responses available, in more severe cases, often the most effective response to alienation is a clear message that residence may be reversed; in appropriate cases the best interests of the child requires a reversal of residence arrangements, even if contrary to the wishes of the child.

While Australia has more publicly funded services than most jurisdictions, there is a need for better Court directed mental health interventions to allow for better responses to the highest conflict cases with contact problems. There needs to be early identification and assessment of high conflict cases, and case management of these most challenging cases by the most experienced family law judges.”

Though there have been some high profile cases in Australia where residency has been reversed, most parents are unaware that they risk losing primary care of children if they are found to be alienating children from the other parent. Worried about the comfort or safety of the children, they may not know what to do to walk the fine line between alienation and protection.

If you need help to get the balance as good as possible for children, ask a psychologist expert in family law matters to assist you and perhaps your children too.

Rosalin Primrose

Call: 0424 002 640

 

 

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Psychology, Counselling & Mediation Sunshine Coast Ph 0424 002 640

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Rosalin Primrose

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