New measures are being trialled to help recognise parental alienation and improve approach to high-conflict cases.

It is self evident that parental conflict is damaging to children. Not a week seems to go by without a member of the judiciary commenting in some way or another about the effect of parental conflict on children or the noting the increasing recognition of parental alienation syndrome. Often adults embroiled in a dispute will see their positions of one of winning or losing – a binary result in circumstances where the child or children’s best interests can be forgotten in the conflict.

CAFCASS, the child and family court advisory and support service has already developed a parental conflict toll to try and help in these situations but they have now gone one step further and introduced the High Conflict Practice Pathway.  Details on the process can be found on the following website –

The High Conflict Pathway can only be undertaken when proceedings are in place and the Court has directed that there is an assessment of the family involved. It is said that the process will help practitioners identify exactly what is happening for each child, distinguishing between parental alienation and the justified rejection of a parent by a child due to harmful or inappropriate behaviour.

The High Conflict Pathway is currently underway and is being monitored and reviewed.  The revised and finalised version should be rolled out nationally and available from CAFCASS’ website from Summer 2018.

As always the success of the programme will need to be evaluated but for some parents already involved in longstanding issues, this welcome news may be too little too late.  The issue of Parental Alienation is one that will continue to grow and it is recommended where parental alienation is suspected it is vital to obtain advice early.

Mark Smith is a partner and specialist family solicitor with a specialism in disputes involving children. Our family law team advises families across the South West on the best solutions for them. If you would like to get in touch with the team by telephone 0345 450 5558 or email