The children of a Russian father will have only supervised contact with their mother after the High Court accepted findings that she had alienated them from their father.
In Re A and B (Parental Alienation), the father was a Russian was a Russian citizen and the mother from Armenia. They married in Moscow and moved to London the following year, shortly after the birth of the first of their two children. Six years later the couple separated.
In 2014, during the subsequent divorce proceedings, a shared care order was made by the new retired family court judge Mrs Justice Pauffley. This meant the siblings would spend roughly equal amounts of time with each parent.
Unfortunately, the following year the mother made serious allegations about the father, and both the Police and the family’s local authority in London became involved. Eventually the Crown Prosecution Service made the decision not to proceed with any charges. Later, in 2018, the mother made further allegations and also applied, unsuccessfully, to change the original shared care order.
Not long afterwards however, the children began refusing to visit their father on some occasions and refusing to speak to him on other occasions. After a few months of faltering contact, the father returned to court.
Following an investigation and interviews with the family, a child psychiatrist and a psychologist agreed that parental alienation had taken place – in other words, the mother had influenced the children into withdrawing and becoming hostile towards their father. The children were, they concluded, at “grave risk” of experiencing emotional harm if the situation continued and their father was allowed to drop out of their lives completely.
Sitting in the High Court, Mr Justice Keehan accepted these findings, describing them as “powerful”. He therefore made a rare ‘transfer of residence’ order, meaning the children would be sent to live with the father on a day-to-day basis. The family should also receive therapy, he added. The children would be helped to adjust to life with their father, while the mother would be guided towards an understanding of the harm she had caused her children by alienating them from her former husband.
Also included in the Judge’s order was a roadmap for the children beginning to see their mother again as the situation improved and progress was made.
But things did not go according to plan. At the High Court Mr Justice Keehan explained subsequent events:
“Unfortunately… the children left their father’s home on two occasions, 26th November and 2nd December, and were only returned to their father’s care with the assistance of officers of the Metropolitan Police.”
As a result, at a further court hearing, in December last year, plans for resuming contact with the mother were suspended.
Eventually, in July this year, the court made a new ruling setting out when and how the children would see their mother. The siblings are now 15 and 12 years of age.
Because the mother had refused to cooperate or accept any responsibility, the new contact plan was to be “very restrictive”. All time spent with their mother would be fully supervised, whether in person or over Zoom videoconferencing software.
As Mr Justice Keehan explained:
“The mother has not and does not accept [the earlier] judgment. The mother has not and does not accept that she, as I found, has caused positive harm to the children in her alienation of the children from the father. She has not effectively engaged with … the therapeutic work that [the therapist] attempted to undertake with the mother. It appears from [the therapist’s] report and from her evidence that matters have got worse rather than better as time has progressed.”