|dc.description.abstract||Parental alienation involves a child being influenced by a parent to reject or resist contact with the other parent for no good reason. It can occur in intact families; however, this thesis focuses on its occurrence in separated families. The most significant challenge for experts dealing with parental alienation is identifying whether the cause of a child rejecting or resisting contact with a parent is a result of the alienating behaviour of one parent, or a result of justified estrangement. There is a large body of international research available in relation to alienation, but the researchers disagree on some aspects associated with alienation, and, in particular, about the specific means of identifying alienation (or a so-called “diagnosis”). However, the currently available research is extensive and reliable enough to be utilised by professionals and the court to address parental alienation and to deal the alienation where it is present. There is, to date, little research on how parental alienation is identified or dealt with in New Zealand.
This thesis considers the empirical research evidence and analyses how the New Zealand courts identify parental alienation. The two most significant challenges for the courts are; identifying where alienation is present (and whether there is any justified estrangement) and how to minimise the detrimental impact on children. Analysis of the case law in New Zealand, Canada and in the England/Wales courts established that there are some common parental behaviours identified by these courts that result in children becoming alienated from a parent. These include false or exaggerated allegations regarding risk to the child (safety allegations), certain personality traits (or possible psychopathology) of the alienating parent, high parental conflict, passive and/or dysfunctional parenting, and the making of unilateral decisions by the alienating parent. There were, however, alienating behaviours identified in the empirical research which did not feature in the cases analysed.
Variations in the outcomes of the New Zealand case law was evident when punitive measures were imposed to reduce or reverse alienation in some cases, but not others, despite similar elements of alienation being present in the family dynamics. A comparison of the international case law with the New Zealand case law regarding case outcomes found that these jurisdictions all order punitive measures, including a change of care in situations of severe alienation, but that the Canadian courts also impose specific therapeutic measures to redress alienation.
New Zealand currently lacks resources to enable early intervention in alienation cases outside of the court system. A review of various resources available in other jurisdictions identified that some could be of benefit if utilised in New Zealand.
Limitations in the New Zealand legislation include the courts’ inability to i) obtain specific evidence of parental psychopathology where alienating behaviour is suspected (an indicator of the risk or presence of severe alienation); and ii) to impose specific therapeutic interventions when alienation is identified, partly due to the lack of specific therapeutic programmes in this jurisdiction.||