Thursday 14th January 2020


Cafcass’ position on parental alienation remains as set out in our child impact assessment framework. We define parental alienation as the unjustified resistance or hostility from a child towards one parent as a result of psychological manipulation by the other parent. We understand that cases where parental alienation features are complex, requiring finely balanced assessment and decision-making, and that the impact of any final decision made by the courts can be life-changing for the parent and child subjected to alienating behaviour. Our role is to establish the impact of alienating behaviours on the child concerned, where these are present, and to recommend to the courts what referrals, intervention or support is needed to end or lessen any harmful impact.


It has come to our attention that there have recently been some false statements on social media about Dr Adrienne Barnett’s views about parental alienation. These give the impression that the quotes attributed to Dr Barnett were made in her capacity as a member of the Cafcass Research Advisory Committee. These statements falsely suggested that the views of Dr Adrienne Barnett about parental alienation were the views of Cafcass.


Dr Barnett is a member of our recently established Research Advisory Committee. All our Research Advisory Committee members provide a highly valued service to Cafcass. However, they act independently in their own professional capacity, they are not employees of Cafcass and do not represent the views of the organisation. Dr Barnett has always appropriately maintained this distinction and the suggestion that she speaks on our behalf has not come from her or from us.


The purposes of the Research Advisory Committee are to: provide independent advice to and scrutiny of the decisions we make about access to our case data for research purposes; and to share research intelligence and help us consider the implications for our social work practice. We are pleased to have a committee that is highly experienced in family justice research, the Family Justice Young People’s Board also sit on the committee and play a key role, ensuring that children and young people remain at the heart of all the decisions made.


PA UK response

Our response to the statement by Cafcass:


We are pleased to see the reissue of Cafcass position on parental alienation – an issue which seriously psychologically harms countless children in contested court hearings.


There is nothing ‘false’ about the social media post. These are the views of a person with huge influence who sits on your advisory group – yet believes parental alienation ‘is a con’.


The quote we use is taken from a public blog for Womens Aid (SAFE) and describes these behaviours as a ‘strategy of domestic abuse’, which it undoubtedly is.

The crucial issue here, is it is gender biased, when there is no difference between the devastating experiences of thousands of victim parents we work alongside:


  1. Parental alienation is a strategy of domestic abuse – evidenced by Dr Barnetts own writing.
  2. She now sits on your advisory group with a conflict of interest.
  3. If we do not raise awareness of this conflict and also evidence how her work, which has been deconstructed to show much of it is flawed – tens of thousands of children will be adversely impacted.


See ‘The language of deceit, division and dominance’.…/nms/article/view/319/379


We believe child protection supersedes all other considerations.

Click here for more information on this subject


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