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Implacable Hostility and the Family Court- update

Date posted: 20 July 2020

Alicia Love, caseworker in the family team considers this recent case on implacable hostility.


The parents were separated and their 9 year old daughter lived with the mother. The mother had joined a cult and as a result was increasingly alienating the daughter from the father. In 2015 the father sought a child arrangements Order for shared care and a specific issue Order to prevent the daughter from having contact with the cult. During the proceedings the mother made allegations of sexual abuse however these were unfounded. In 2017 an order was made incorporating shared care and a prohibited steps Order barring the mother from involving the daughter in any cult activity. Despite this the father became increasingly concerned and in 2018 issued an application for the daughter to live with him and spend time with the mother.


In the first instance the Judge dismissed the father’s application subject to the mother making undertakings. The undertaking’s the mother offered were insufficient and the matter went to appeal. The appeal against the dismissal of the father’s application was allowed, in circumstances where the trial judge had found that the daughter had suffered harm in the context of her mother’s adherence to the cult, and that a process of alienating from the father had begun.


The judgment made it clear that there is an obligation on the court to respond with diligence and any inaction will clearly help the stronger party where alienation has begun. Any inaction may result in the alienation being so ingrained as to be insurmountable. The sense that nothing can be done if a child says they do not want to see/ live with a parent is incorrect and the courts should go further in determining why the child is saying such things. The Court of Appeal clarified that Transfer of tenancy does also not need to be used as a last resort and in instances of parental alienation the court may need to take a somewhat aggressive approach.


If you have a children case which you need assistance with, please contact Mavis on 020 8885 7986 for an appointment with a solicitor in the family team.