Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


Parental Alienation Under Scrutiny

Call for consideration of New Zealand Law reform dealing with Parental Alienation

Tuesday 11 July 2018

A University of Otago study calling for consideration of law reform in the complex field of parental alienation has been published this week in the New Zealand Family Law Journal.

The author of the postgraduate thesis, Nelson solicitor and law firm director Lee James, has a practising career extending back to 1996. She completed the research while attaining her Master of Laws from the University of Otago. The thesis was finalised in April this year.

Ms James says New Zealand is lacking a suitable legal framework to deal with parental alienation issues, which can have widespread and serious negative impacts on children.

“This research has identified significant detrimental impacts to children who have been alienated by a parent. The thesis identifies that there are certain limitations within both the current New Zealand legislation and the facilities available for dealing with alienation,” Ms James says.

Alienation from a parent can often stem from a difficult or broken relationship between parents, and can include alienating behaviour such as a parent making negative comments about the other parent, limiting contact, being upset if a child was affectionate with the other parent, said or implied the other parent did not love the child or was unsafe, expected the child to choose between the parents, making communication difficult, asking a child to spy or making the child feel bad about spending time with the other parent[1].

Ms James says examples of some of the negative effects on children can include depression, insecurity, reduced self-esteem, attachment issues, gender identity problems and aggression and mistrust towards others, to name a few.

In her thesis Ms James explains that to maximise the Court’s ability to consistently identify alienation and improve outcomes for children where alienation is present, the legislative framework should include:

· The ability to assess a parent’s psychopathology such as the presence of mental or personality disorders to consider the intent behind the behaviour and whether their behaviour is obstructive

· Requiring parents to subscribe to, and complete all relevant steps, in the online family-wellbeing website; Our Family Wizard

· Appointing a Parenting Co-ordinator to work with parents and monitor compliance and, where alienation is present, to direct therapeutic intervention for the alienating parent and the family to encourage reunification (and the implementation of specific programmes to address this).

Ms James believes there is little doubt that there will be cases where the alienation is so severe that early Court intervention will be necessary, and the recommended reforms would pave the way forward for New Zealand courts to identify alienation more quickly and effectively and to impose adequate determinations. She says there are challenges for the courts in determining the presence of alienation as there are some situations where a child becomes “justifiably estranged” from a parent for reasons such as violence, abuse or neglect.

“These cases are known as “hybrid” or “crossover” cases and are known to consume significant resources to determine. The reforms suggested would assist the courts in determining such cases and in turn, would improve outcomes for children who are the subject of disputes involving alienation,” Ms James adds.

University of Otago Family Law expert, Professor Mark Henaghan, who supervised Ms James during her research, says parental alienation cases provide the biggest headache and challenge for the Family Court and can be drawn out for years.

“Lee’s thesis provides very well-researched, improved methods that can be used in the Family Court to put processes in place – such as counselling – to support families and prevent alienation cases from damaging children,” Professor Henaghan says.

“Counselling for families was weakened by the 2014 Family Law reforms. The thesis also shows that early identification of alienation is crucial to nip it in the bud before too much damage is done. This requires appropriate assessment by experienced experts at an early stage. Other jurisdictions have specific systems in place to deal with alienation. We do not have the resources for such processes in New Zealand at present,” says Professor Henaghan

Professor Henaghan believes these early interventions could allow reunification processes to be put in place, and he notes the thesis makes a clear distinction between alienation and justified estrangement such as when a parent has been abusive to a child.


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

National Terrorism Threat Level Moves To Medium
Medium is defined as a terrorist attack is assessed as feasible and could well occur. The new level remains higher than it was before the 15 March terrorist attack when the threat level was low. More>>


Environment Aotearoa 2019: Report Warns Environment In Serious Trouble

The report is jointly produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand, and is a follow on from the last report in 2015.

The report says the way New Zealanders live and make a living is having a serious impact on the environment, and the benefits New Zealanders get from being in nature, though not measured or quantified, could be lost. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Scrapping The Capital Gains Tax

As PM Jacinda Arden said yesterday, there was no point in Labour bringing a proposal into the House that it didn’t have the votes to get passed. Looking back, maybe she always felt this outcome to be inevitable... More>>


City Rail Link: Billion Dollar Cost Rise (And Preferred Bidder)

The revised cost envelope for completing the entire Auckland City Rail Link project now totals $4.419 billion. The revised cost has yet to be endorsed by the project’s sponsors (the Crown and Auckland Council). More>>


Meth Scare: Debt Write-Off For HNZ Meth Testing Evictions

People living in Housing New Zealand (HNZ) properties who were wrongly evicted because of flawed methamphetamine contamination policies will have their related debts with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) written off. More>>


RNZ Report: Fears Grow For NZ Nurse Kidnapped In Syria

A New Zealand nurse working for the Red Cross was captured by Islamic State (IS) in Syria more than five years ago, and there are now public pleas for any information that could help bring her home. More>>


Streets Blocked In London: Climate 'Extinction Rebellion' Reaches Aotearoa

Across the world, thousands of people are taking part in a rebellion to avert climate, ecological and human catastrophe. This begins in Aotearoa New Zealand today. More>>





InfoPages News Channels