Industry News by Paul Dodds Law
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Sir Andrew McFarlane, the president of the family division of the high court, is to examine issues relating to the regulation of court-appointed experts who provide evidence about child welfare in private custody hearings particularly where “parental alienation” is a feature as part of an appeal brought by a mother who challenged the qualifications of a court-appointed expert who found she had “alienated” her children from their father.

Parental alienation is a psychological concept involving a child rejecting a parent with whom they had previously had a positive relationship through no fault of that parent or the child and seemingly without reason.

In the case subject to the appeal the mother, who had her children permanently removed from her care against their wishes alleged that the expert was not an appropriately qualified expert and was not regulated by any professional body.

The President is to consider the “appropriateness or otherwise of instructing unregulated psychologists as experts in family proceedings concerning children, and in particular in cases where parental alienation may arise”. It is hoped that this might help avoid arguments over experts and whether they are appropriately qualified.

In the President issued a memo which noted that “pseudo-science which is not based on any established body of knowledge will be inadmissible in the family court”. He later referred to the memo in a speech where he noted “Where the issue of parental alienation is raised and it is suggested to the court that an expert should be instructed, the court must be careful only to authorise such instruction where the individual expert has the relevant expertise,”.