A and B (Parental Alienation): A tragedy in 4 parts

Image: Public Domain, via Piqsels

Yesterday four judgments of Mr Justice Keehan in the case A and B (Parental Alienation) were published on the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary website. Together they amount to some 151 paragraphs. As the subject matter is I'm sure of considerable interest to very many family lawyers and others, I thought it might be helpful to provide a very brief summary of the judgments.

The case concerned two children, Child A and Child B, now aged 15 and 12. The mother was born in Armenia, and the father was born in Russia. They married in Moscow in 2005, and shortly after the first child was born they moved to London.

The parents separated in 2012 and in 2014 a shared care order was made by Pauffley J, by consent, providing for the children to spend equal times with each parent.

Keehan J takes up the story:

"Very sadly, ... in the following year, particularly in March 2015, were a series of allegations made by the mother against the father which involved the police and/or the local authority. Ultimately, no action was taken but it took a considerable period of time for the Crown Prosecution Service to notify the father that a decision had been made not to prosecute him. In November 2018, further allegations were made by the mother against the father in relation to the children and then in early November 2018, the mother made an application to vary the order of Pauffley J. She sought to suspend the shared care arrangements. Those applications were refused. Shortly thereafter, Child B refused to go to his father's home and then contact began to fail. In December 2018 the children did attend contact with the father but failed to engage with him."

The father applied for a child arrangements order in March 2019.

Expert evidence was obtained from a child psychiatrist and Dr Janine Braier, a well renowned psychologist in the field of parental alienation, assisted by a Ms Karen Woodall.

The experts agreed that the mother had alienated the children from the father, and Dr Braier said that the children were at grave risk of physical and emotional harm if they continued to suffer parental alienation and splitting from their father. 

At a hearing in November last year Keehan J found that the mother had caused both of the children serious emotional harm in alienating them from their father, and decided on the "powerful evidence" before him, supported by the expert opinion of Dr Braier and Ms Woodall, that he should transfer residence from the mother to the father.

Keehan J's order provided that there should be "a period of therapeutic intervention by Ms Woodall to repair the emotional damage the children had suffered, to assist the children in settling with their father, and to assist the mother to understand the role that she had played and the harm that she had caused the children, so that, in the course of time, it would be possible for contact to be re-established between the children and the mother." As part of this process Keehan J set out a potential roadmap of when contact could restart in ideal circumstances and, subject to positive progress, how the contact could increase over a period of time.

The events that followed were summarised in the 3rd judgment (which actually dealt with a costs application by the father), thus:

"Unfortunately, as I set out in a postscript to the judgment of 25th November [i.e. the 2nd judgment], the children left their father's home on two occasions, 26th November and 2nd December, and were only returned to their father's care with the assistance of officers of the Metropolitan Police. In consequence of these events, the case was listed of the court's own motion for a directions hearing on 8th December 2020. At this hearing I suspended the operation of the contact route map".

The final hearing took place in July, to determine the issue of the mother's contact.

Ms Woodall prepared a roadmap for contact, which provided "for very restrictive contact to the mother, both supervised direct and supervised indirect contact by Zoom." The reason for it being so restrictive was due to the mother's lack of engagement, and lack of acceptance of her past role.

Keehan J had "no hesitation" in accepting Ms Woodall's recommendation.

The four judgments can also be found on Bailii, in HTML rather than PDF format, here: No.1, No.2, No.3, No.4.