Parental Alienation by Cafcass
Cafcass’ failings have been widely publicised, perhaps most notably by the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO), the union that represents the family courts (click here to listen to ‘Cafcass “failing children”’, Today, BBC Radio 4), and despite talk of shutting it down, the unfortunate truth is that with nothing to replace it, the promise of future improvement has proved the only available option.
Like judges, Cafcass officers are susceptible to their own prejudices coloured by their cultural and religious backgrounds. Often criticised for being sexist in their attitudes, they are known for making arbitrary decisions in favour of the mother with little or no supporting evidence.
Cafcass will subject children to dubious tests which force them to make choices between their parents and extended family. Results can be skewed to support any theory, e.g. ‘I like Mum best’ – child wants to be with mother / ‘I like Dad best’ – child is being pressured by father.
Equally, questioning based on a Cafcass officer’s preconceptions, can reinforce the alienation process. A child may be asked different questions about each parent in order to elicit responses that support the Cafcass officer’s argument in favour of one parent over the other.
There is a view amongst Cafcass officers that without the cooperation of both parents, shared parenting will not work and is best avoided. This gives alienating parents all the incentive they need to continue fighting, as they know Cafcass will support them in court.
Since the Judge invariably approves their recommendations, the Cafcass officer is effectively judge and jury, but because they do not make the ultimate order, they evade direct culpability.