UK: Divorced parents who pit children against former partners ‘guilty of abuse’


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Divorced parents who “brainwash” their children against ex-partners are guilty of “abuse”, the head of the agency that looks after youngsters’ interests in family courts has said.

Anthony Douglas, chief executive of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), warned against the danger of “parental alienation”.

He said the deliberate manipulation of a child by one parent against the other has become so common in family breakdowns that it should be dealt with like any other form of neglect or child abuse.

According to Cafcass, parental alienation is responsible for around 80 per cent of the most difficult cases that come before the family courts.   Alienation can include a parent constantly badmouthing or belittling the other adult, limiting contact between the child and the targeted parent, forbidding discussion about them, creating the impression the parent does not love the child and forcing the child to reject the parent.

“It’s undoubtedly a form of neglect or child abuse in terms of the impact it can have,” said Mr Douglas. “I think the way you treat your children after a relationship has broken up is just as powerful a public health issue as smoking or drinking.”

One mother, who wants to remain unnamed, described how she was cut off from her son two years ago by her ex-husband.

She said her former partner made “false and fabricated allegations” against her in order to gain custody and “manipulate my son so deeply that he now has no memory of his loving childhood with me”.

Now her contact with the 14-year-old is limited to Skype conversations and visits once a month.

“If I had been sent to prison I would have been able to see my son more than I do now,” she said. “My son is brainwashed – he is emotionally dependent on his father and behaves as if he were in a cult. My son has no idea what is going on, only that he feels angry at me.

“The more parents who stand up to this and say it is unacceptable the better. Emotional abuse is just as horrible and controlling as physical abuse. It’s unacceptable and things need to change in the way it is dealt with.”

In some countries, governments have put in place legislation to prevent such behaviour. In Italy parents can be fined, whereas in Mexico, guilty adults can be given a 15-year jail term.

And in America “parenting coordinators” are ordered and supervised by the courts to help restore relationships between parents and children identified as “alienated”.

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Mr Douglas said: “There isn’t a specific criminal law that outlaws parental alienation in the UK. But we do have family law and through assessments and enforcement proceedings, we do have the ability to send parents to prison or give them community sentences.

“But this is hardly ever the case because ultimately the punishment on the parent will rebound on the child.”

However, judges in the UK are starting to recognise parental alienation, which is leading to some children being removed from the offending parent.

“But this is fraught with difficulty,” said Mr Douglas. “It’s a rocky road and a difficult process.”

Joanna Abrahams, head of family law at Setfords Solicitors, is one of the country’s few specialists in parental alienation.

She said: “The amount of enquiries we are getting about this type of behaviour is growing all the time. At the moment we get about three calls a day about this – and that’s a lot.

“It’s always been there but people are now beginning to understand more about it and how harmful it can be. You can run into the tens of thousands on cases like these.

“The frustration when you can’t see your child takes over people’s entire lives. Some kind of legislation needs to be put in place but what that is I can’t say.

“Each case is of course very different and it’s not always that someone is doing this on purpose. It might be subconscious behaviour.”

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Ms Abrahams is looking to draw up a team of experts to see if a committee could be formulated to tackle parental alienation.

“It’s in the embryonic stages at the moment but it would include myself, Cafcass social workers and mental health workers – a cross-range of experts with the hope of developing something.

“I think we need to all work together to have a more joined-up approach to this behaviour which can be so damaging.”

India: India not to sign pact on inter-country child abduction


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New Delhi: The Union Government, with a view to protecting the interests of Indian women living abroad, has decided not to sign the Hague Convention relating to inter-country child abduction, which provides for a scheme for settling disputes.

Inter-parental child removal either by the mother or the father from one country to another is not defined in any Indian legislation. Further, India is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, 1980, which is acceded to by 93 countries worldwide. It was widely expected that India will sign this Convention.

In the absence of a law and India not signing the Hague Convention, inter-parental child custody conflicts are decided by Indian courts on the principle of the welfare of the child in the best interests of the child. Many countries have made abduction a punishable offence.

Centre defends move not to sign treaty
In UK, the Child Abduction Act, 1984 has very stringent provisions making such wrongful removal and retention, as an offence. The government has defended its decision not to sign the Convention on the ground that signing it would be to the disadvantage of Indian women as there were far more cases of Indian women escaping bad marriages abroad and returning “to the safety of their homes” in India. Non-Indian women who are married to Indian men leaving India with their children are comparatively less.

Australia: Williamstown’s Vedran Drakulic honoured with OAM


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Williamstown’s Vedran Drakulic was 30 in 1992 when war broke out in Bosnia, and it was only thanks to his work with Red Cross that he got out alive.

Now the refugee has been honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the community through charitable organisations.

“I often say that Red Cross saved my life because, if I didn’t work for the Red Cross, I probably would have ended up in the army and then got killed,” he said.

“It’s not an exaggeration – I’m positive about that because I often say I have no friends from my generation in Sarajevo … they either left like I did or they were killed in the war.

“In the war, I lost my only brother. He was killed as a civilian victim very early in the war when there was a lot of shellings of the city – indiscriminate, just they start shelling and people die.”

Mr Drakulic left Sarajevo, while it was under siege, in 1995. His current role is chief executive of Gandel Philanthropy, a private family foundation that provides grants to Jewish and other causes. He is also on the advisory committee of the Gandel Holocaust Studies Program for Australian Educators.

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“People and the society should not forget … breaches of human rights can very quickly escalate from being just simple breaches to serious crimes against humanity,” he said. “We have to be upstanders rather than bystanders.”

Aside from his ‘day job’, Mr Drakulic’s Australia Day honour recognises his volunteer work at organisations including International Social Service Australia, of which he is president and which supports families in cases of parental child abduction across borders.

He’s also on the board of Adult Multicultural Education Services and the committee of management of the Hobsons Bay Community Fund.

“That’s really at the grassroots level here in the local community, which is, for me, very, very fulfilling to be able to give back in the local community as well,” he said.

Mr Drakulic said it was very humbling and inspiring to be recognised on Australia Day.

“Coming to this country as a refugee, I was given a second chance at another life, and both my wife and I, and our daughter now, we look at Australia as our home country … we want to give back,” he said.

“I would really dedicate this to every refugee that comes to this country and makes a new life … but also makes Australia the wonderful country that we live in.”

 

see also: http://www.australiaparentalabduction.com

Why Young Kids Should Spend Equal Time with Divorced Parents


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When parents separate or divorce, they often wonder what’s best for their young children: should they spend more time with their mother in order to maintain a strong relationship? Or, should time be split equally?

A new study may offer the answer. Researchers found that children of divorce benefited from spending time, including sleeping over, at both parent’s homes.

And the adult children who went on to have the best relationships with their parents were the ones who spent equal time at both their mother’s home and their father’s home when they were very young, according to the study, published today (Feb. 2) in the journal Psychology, Public Policy and Law. [25 Scientific Tips for Raising Happy (and Healthy) Kids]

Previous research suggested that when a child spends too much time with his or her father early in life, it can damage the mother-child bond, which had been viewed as the more important relationship, the researchers wrote in the study.

However, the researchers found that “not only did overnight parenting time with fathers during infancy and toddlerhood cause no harm to the mother-child relationship, it actually appeared to benefit children’s relationships with both their mothers and their fathers,” lead study author William Fabricius, an associate professor of psychology at Arizona State University, said in a statement.

The researchers included more than 100 college students in the study whose parents had separated or divorced before the student was 3 years old. These students were asked to assess their current relationships with each of their parents.

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In addition, the researchers surveyed each student’s parents, asking them to report the amount of time the student spent as a young child with either the mother or the father. The parents also reported the amount of time the child spent with the father from ages 5 to 10 and from ages 10 to 15, according to the study. Finally, the parents noted whether they were separated or divorced for one, two or three of their child’s first three years, the researchers wrote.

The scientists found that the more overnight parenting time that the students had as infants and toddlers, up to and including equal time spent with the mother and father, the better their current relationships with their parents were.

The time spent with both parents at age 2 was particularly important, the researchers wrote. If a 2-year- old missed out on spending the night at both parents’ houses, the parents couldn’t compensate later with more overnight time, according to the study. The researchers noted that these particular overnight visits had a positive effect on the parent-child relationship regardless of any conflicts or disagreements between the mother and father about the overnights.

In other words, the findings were the same whether the parents agreed on equal time or not.

The researchers offered several reasons for why equal time with both parents is beneficial.

For the fathers, “having to care for their infants and toddlers for the whole cycle of evening, bedtime, nighttime and morning helps dads learn to parent their children from the beginning,” Fabricius said. “It helps dads and babies learn about each other, and provides a foundation for their future relationship,” he said.

For the mothers, letting the child spend the night with his or her father could offer a break from the stress of being a single mother, the researchers wrote.

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Japan: New bill seeks to promote parent-child interaction following divorce


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A cross-party group of lawmakers has drawn up a bill to promote parent-child interactions after divorces and marital separations, encouraging parents to maintain ties with their children mainly via visitations.

According to the bill, parents who are getting divorced would be required to put into writing the frequency of the visitations and how to share the child-rearing costs.

The lawmakers, including members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the main opposition Democratic Party, aim to submit the bill to the Diet on June 18.

111Among the bill’s basic principles are one that says parents must try to maintain sustainable relationships with their children after divorce. They also call for efforts to secure opportunities for the children to express their will and to ensure that their growth and personality development will not be impeded.

In addition to urging parents to maintain favorable relationships with their children through periodic visitations and other exchanges in a stable manner, the bill calls on the state to carry out related educational activities and provide the necessary support. It also urges local governments to make similar efforts.

On the other hand, the bill underscores the need for special consideration in cases of child abuse and domestic violence, including by banning visitations and exchanges.

It also asks the state to consider introducing a joint parental custody system under which the custody of a child is awarded to both parents after divorce.

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The Legislative Council, which advises the justice minister, is discussing a potential amendment to the civil execution law to clarify rules for the handover of a child between divorced parents.

In Japan, where custody of a child must be decided between a father and a mother when they are divorced, conflicts often emerge over the issue of visitations, especially when parents are unable to communicate calmly, raising the need for the swift involvement of a third party.

Experts have called for setting up places to offer consultation services that can be easily accessed by parents, as there is a limit to what they can do by themselves to seek settlements.

Masayuki Tanamura, a professor at Waseda University, said many Western countries have support systems that enable parents to have consultations over how to raise their children after they get divorced.

“In Japan, the level support before divorce is inefficient, leading to escalation of conflicts between husband and wife and resulting in lawsuits,” Tanamura said.

“There should be many cases that can be resolved beforehand, so the state and local governments need to enhance their support.”

Child Recovery Agents Parental KidnappingAccording to government’s population survey, the number of divorces in Japan reached 226,215 in 2015, up from 222,107 cases the previous year, indicating that divorces are no longer uncommon in the country.

In line with the increase in divorces, the number of mediation and judgments at family courts has been on the rise over conflicts between a parent seeking access to his or her child and another parent rejecting the demand.

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India: WCD ministry undecided on child abduction meet in Hague


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A meeting called by the Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry on Friday to consider whether India should be a signatory to the Hague convention on civil aspects of international child abduction remained inconclusive.

Signing the treaty will make inter-parental child abduction an offence punishable with one-year jail.

WCD minister Maneka Gandhi who chaired the meeting, however, said that a model legislation to safeguard not only the interests of the child but also of the parents, especially women, must be developed, irrespective of whether India signs the treaty or not.

The ministry had earlier refused to join the treaty saying it was against the interest of women. Some 90 countries have signed the Hague convention that protects children under the age of 16 from “wrongful removal or retention” by a parent and ensures “their prompt return to the state of their habitual residence”.

Following over an hour long discussion with all stakeholders, including officials from home and foreign affairs ministry, high court judges, affected parents among others, the WCD ministry has now asked the Chandigarh Judicial Academy and NRI Commission of Punjab to examine in detail the legal issues involved by taking all viewpoints into account, including those of suffering women. They will have to submit their report within four months.

“They will give recommendations as to how the problems of parents and children involved in such situations can be addressed. They will also study the draft Protection of Children (Inter-Country Removal and Retention) Bill, 2016 prepared by the ministry,” said a senior WCD ministry official.

Gandhi said that a large number of women married to Indians abroad are compelled to return to India with their children when they undergo violence in their marriages.

Expressing concern at the difficulties being faced by the affected parent, whether men or women and their children as a result of breakdown of marriages abroad, Gandhi said that a mechanism needed to be developed to address the plight of such parents.

Ministry officials said that the women who had suffered from violence in marriages abroad far exceed men. Last year, the ministry was nudged into drafting the civil aspects of international child abduction bill by the Punjab and Haryana high court and law commission. But the bill is yet to get the cabinet nod.

There has been a steady rise in parental abductions as more and more Indians go abroad to work or study. Children often bear the brunt of their parents’ marital disputes and are often forced to return to India by one of the quarreling parents. In most cases, it is the mother who returns with the child.

India: Women and Child Development ministry to meet today to discuss parental child abduction


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Rahul was just a few months old when he was “abducted” by his father and taken from India to the US, alleges his mother Soniya. That was two years back. Since then Soniya says she has had no access to her son. Her anguish and love for her son finds expression in a song that she has penned and composed for him. But the song titled “Na Rukenge” or We Won’t Stop, can be symbolic of the struggle that every left behind parent who has had his or her child “abducted” by an estranged spouse is fighting for their parental rights. “My son was abducted twice, once from India to the US and then in 2015 from the US back to India,” alleges Soniya, adding that she is fighting legal battles in both countries to be reunited with her son.

India does not recognise parental child abduction as an offence. Nor is it a signatory of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which is a multilateral treaty that seeks to “protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return”.

Faced with an increasing number of such cases, however, the ministry of women and child development will meet on Friday to discuss India’s stand on the treaty. “Those to be present at the meeting include officials from the ministries of Women and Child Development, home affairs and external affairs, two high court judges, a few independent lawyers, representatives of non-government organisations and some affected parents,” says a source in the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

The meeting, says the source, is not to take an immediate decision on whether India should sign the treaty, but to listen to different opinions and try to find a solution. India’s original reason for not signing the treaty was because the government felt that most cases of child removal are committed by women trying to escape a bad or abusive marriage in another country and criminalising this and forcing her to return to the country of habitual residence would add to her problems.

But in the absence of laws, a case of abduction becomes a custody battle here, says US-resident Rakesh Agarwal, who alleges that his son was “abducted” by his wife in 2012. Not only is it time-consuming, but “decision is dependent on the discretion of the judge,” says Deepti Khanna, whose daughter was allegedly “abducted” by her husband in 2014.

All these parents now have their hopes pinned on the meeting today. “India not being a signatory to the Convention has encouraged people like my husband to abuse the legal system. Parental child abduction should be a punishable offence,” says Soniya.

The meeting is the hot topic of conversation on social media between parents fighting to be reunited with their children. Their only peeve point is that they were not allowed a sufficient participation in the meeting. “We have been asked to email or tweet our views. How is it possible to put our feelings in a tweet of 140 characters. Why couldn’t we have been asked to participate via a video conference,” questions Sunita Singh, an engineer in the US who alleges that her son was “abducted” by her husband and parents-in-law in 2015.

HIGHLIGHT POINTS
  • India is among the top ten countries to which children abducted from UK are being taken by the abducting parent.
  • A 2013 report found that between 2003 and 2013 the number of parental child abduction cases have doubled in UK.
  • India is number two on the list of countries to which children wrongfully removed from the US are being taken.
  • According to US government data, there were more than 80 cases of parental child abduction cases from the US to India.
  • In seventy per cent of cases of parental child abduction from the UK, it is the mother who removes the child.
  • The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return.
  • The Law Commission of India has said that India should become a signatory of the Convention.