The debates continues whilst MPs question the need for reform and concerns about psychological assessments in family cases.

Following the publishing of Sir Andrew McFarlane’s judgment in February, in the case of Re C [2023] EWHC 345 (Fam) – Re C (‘Parental Alienation’) ( MPs have called for an inquiry into the use of alienation claims in parental disputes. Alienation claims commonly refer to situations where one parent alleges that the other is turning their child against them, which can be a contentious issue in disputes regarding children.

After Sir Andrew expressed the need for tighter regulation of psychologists and a need for “rigour” and “clarity”, some MPs are furthering claims that the instruction of psychologists is becoming increasingly common, and that they may be used inappropriately or as a way to gain an advantage in a dispute. The inquiry would examine the impact of such claims on children and families, and consider whether they are being used fairly and appropriately.

Issues | Parental Alienation

The issue of parental alienation has been a topic of debate and controversy for many years and is arguably becoming increasingly relied upon. It is a concept that can divide opinion – supporters of the concept argue that it is a real phenomenon that can cause significant harm to children and families, while critics of the concept argue that it is often used as a way to discredit one parent and gain an advantage in disputes.

The call for an inquiry into the use of alienation claims in parental disputes reflects growing concern about the impact of such claims on families and the legal system. It remains to be seen whether the inquiry will be established, and what its findings and recommendations might be.

The latest claims express concerns that allegations of parental alienation could be levelled against a parent who might allege a wish to protect a child from violence or aggression by the other parent. Clearly there will always be cases where false claims are made and the court is the ultimate arbiter, and ultimately it is essential that there is careful analysis of the facts and an interrogation of the individual circumstances. It might be difficult to resist the powerful recommendation by Sir Andrew, however, that parliament should review whether a tighter regime should be imposed akin to other professions such as medicine.


The point made in relation parental alienation is an important one and it should be emphasised that the court prefers to consider “fundamentally a question of fact”.  Sir Andrew went on to state in Re C: “What is important, as with domestic abuse, is the particular behaviour found to have taken place…and the impact that behaviour may have had on the relationship of a child with either or both of his/her parents.

“In this regard, the identification of ‘alienating behaviour’ should be the court’s focus, rather than any quest to determine whether the label ‘parental alienation’ can be applied.”

At Stephens Scown LLP we have a specialist, accredited team dealing with children disputes both in relation to Private Law and Public Law matters. The team boasts expertise and significant experience in cases involving the instruction of psychologists and where allegations of domestic abuse and alienation claims are made. If you are experiencing issues that you believe we can help with then please do get in touch with our family team.