PAS, as it is commonly known, currently has no legal standing in UK family law. It is a form of emotional abuse which involves one parent negatively conditioning their child against the other. Common cases will involve the children initially wanting to maintain contact with the other parent and changing their mind suddenly or over a period of time.
This could be because
- the resident parent has lied to them about their exes conduct
- they have had a sense of fear instilled through, for example, the threat of abduction
- they have been shown court papers with a one sided viewpoint
- the other parent has been visibly distressed in front of their children when discussing contact
- young children may have been told that they have a new mother or father and be confused
- they have been bribed or coerced with the threat of punishment for wanting to see the other parent and/or rewards for negative behaviour towards them
Some children are genuinely brainwashed and develop a false memory claiming that bad things happened in the past and blocking out any good times they had with their father or mother. Others know the truth but it is a matter of survival through fear, emotional pressure or an inability to deal with the pain of the divorce. The 1989 Children's Act states that children's wishes must be considered in court so many parents are aware that getting their children to state that they never want to see their mother or father again will end contact.
The legal system aids this form of abuse by giving unfounded allegations credence and often insisting on supervised contact making it difficult for the non-resident parent to maintain a close relationship with their children. Few Cafcass Officers are willing to recognise emotional abuse even when court reports show a change of personality over time. Schools, Social Services and other agencies will be reluctant to become involved and refer you back to Cafcass. You may find that where your ex has lied to friends and neighbours about your past contact they react to you with hostility and refuse to help.
In most cases the children do re-establish contact with the non-resident parent when they are older. In the meantime there are things that you can do:
* Attempt to maintain contact in any way you can. Even if your child blanks you go to school events, watch football matches etc. unless you have a court order preventing you from doing so. Your child will know deep down that you haven't given up on them whatever the other parent says
* Place adverts for birthdays and letters in the local newspaper. Include photographs and prompts as reminders of the good times you used to have together
* Ensure that you are listed in the telephone book and are contactable. Try and keep the same telephone number and consider setting up a personal web page. You can always have the website address published in the local paper
* Keep a journal. Write down everything that happens including your feelings and what you would say to your child if you could see them. Save this for when they are older and can understand what has happened to them
* Seek counselling. If contact is totally stopped you will need to grieve the loss of your children. Keep the lines of contact open but work towards rebuilding your life and having something to offer them when they eventually return
For further information and links on PAS see the links to the right of this page.