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Thursday, 16 March 2017

Parents who use children as a weapon in break-up 'should be punished in court'

Written by Jack Maidment and Richard Wheeler

Parents who try to turn their children against an ex-partner or spouse following a break-up should be punished in the courts, ministers have been told.

Simon Danczuk urged the Government to recognise parental alienation as a form of emotional abuse as he suggested he had been a victim of such tactics as a child.

Mr Danczuk (pictured) warned that children can be "maliciously used as a weapon" as adults seek revenge after a divorce.

The independent MP for Rochdale also said he had to "work to avoid" being negative in front of his own youngest children following the breakdown of his marriage to his second wife Karen.

"I believe that government and the courts need to recognise parental alienation as a form of emotional abuse and as such they need to step up efforts to prevent it occurring and in some circumstances punish the perpetrators," he said.

Mr Danczuk told the Commons he came to the issue not as an expert "but certainly as someone who has experience" of parental alienation.

"My mother could be accused of such a thing," he said.

"When my parents separated when I was five my mother portrayed my father perhaps on occasion faithfully in a very poor light.

"In contrast my father would refuse to say anything bad about my mother."

Mr Danczuk said manipulation of children can take a "very nasty form" with some parents working to "poison the child's mind with biased accounts of why the marriage failed" or by giving "unpleasant" details of the divorce.

They could also seek to restrict access to the child so that a proper relationship cannot be maintained with the other parent, he said.

"Their children are maliciously used as a weapon in this battle," he said.

"For the target parent the sense of loss and pain can be unimaginable.

"For the children who are innocent bystanders the effects in the present and the long term can only be negative."

He also touched on the breakdown of his second marriage as he said: "I must say that I have had to work to avoid being negative in conversation with my two youngest children since my second marriage broke down.

"Thankfully my second wife Karen and I, for all our differences, work really hard at putting our children's emotions first.

"This is down to good and regular communication."

Justice minister Sir Oliver Heald, replying for the Government, said the law takes parental alienation "seriously" with procedures in place to "robustly" address it when it features in child arrangement cases in the family court.

He also said: "The Government doesn't have plans immediately to depart from the current law, which puts children's welfare first and foremost when family court considers matters affecting their lives and futures.

"But we are giving consideration to what further changes may be needed to the family justice system and we'll be seeking views on our proposals in due course later this year."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Nick Ansell / PA Wire.