Children on the transition bridge; Annie’s story

Annie is just 24 months old, she is doing well and has started to attend nursery for the first time. This new world, which she skips into every Friday morning, is widening her experience and challenging her internalised world. From her mother and her father, to the wider world of other children and other adults, Annie is coping with the change and skipping over the transition bridge on a regular basis.

Annie has a mother and a father who have lived together since before she was born. Annie has grown between these two beloved creatures on a daily basis, moving between one and the other as each appears upon her radar, with the surety that comes from an attachment which is secure. Annie has lots of time with her mum, who gave up work for the first 18 months of her life and also lots of time with her grandmother, who took over looking after Annie on a daily basis when Annie’s mum went back to work. In the mornings, Annie skips over the transition bridge to spend five hours with Nanny and in the afternoons she skips back to spend the rest of the day with her mum. Each evening and every weekend, Annie’s dad appears on her radar screen and sometimes, she skips happily over the transition bridge to go on an adventure with this beloved man in her life. Annie’s internalised world is stable and steady and all is quiet upon her radar screen.

The quiet space between Annie’s mum and dad gives Annie peace and allows her to concentrate upon doing all of the things that she needs to do in order to learn and grow and enjoy her world. This quiet space is born of a fluid and interchangeable daily routine, in which sometimes, surprising things happen. One day, for example, Annie wakes up to find that it is her dad who is making breakfast and her dad who is taking her over to be with Nanny. Annie’s dad explains that this is because her mum is not feeling very well. The space around Annie remains calm and quiet however and so her internalised radar also remains calm. All is well, the grown ups who appear and disappear in her world have everything under control.

Over time however, Annie begins to be disturbed by some crackling on her radar screen and although she does not know why, she feels uncomfortable and upset. Her dad, who used to appear each evening, begins to appear randomly in the daytime as well as in the evening and her mum, who used to be very calm, is now quite snappy with Annie. The transition bridge doesn’t feel so easy to skip over in the middle of this noisy environment and Annie begins to feel under attack from some very new feelings. These feelings happen as she sits in the car on the way to Nanny’s house as mum and dad shout at each other. She starts to feel whirly feelings inside and doesn’t want to go over the transition bridge to Nanny’s house when they arrive, no matter how calm Nanny is, Annie keeps looking back at mum and dad and feeling the whirly feelings. She starts to feel distracted by these feelings and begins to cry, they hurt and frighten her.

One day daddy does not appear on her radar screen anymore, neither in the evening or during the day and not at weekends either. The noisy atmosphere has become a heavy fog and mum doesn’t have much time for her anymore. The transition bridge, when she goes to Nanny’s house, is far too difficult for her to cross, no matter how much time that her mum and her Nanny spend persuading her its ok. Nursery, by now, has become a place so terrifying and overwhelming that she no longer goes there. Nappies, which she has started to move out of, become something necessary again. Annie seeks refuge in her mother, who, for much of the time, seems to be the safest person to hang on to. Annie sychronises herself with her mother’s moods so that her internal radar quietens again and she can cope with the world. Her mother is good at keeping things calm.

One day her dad is at the door, Annie is surprised and very pleased, she skips off over the transition bridge and out on an adventure with her dad, they have a grand old time and Annie is in heaven as they swing high on the swings and roll down the grassy bank. She has missed her dad, though she does not know how to express that, so she gives him lots of cuddles and sits on his knee and kisses him a lot.

When they back to the house though, dad doesn’t come in, he stands on the doorstep and the noise in the space between her mum and her dad suddenly becomes very very loud. Annie’s internal radar can barely cope so bad is the disturbance. She runs up to her room and hides in her play tent until her dad has gone. Her mum comes in and sits her on her lap and tells her everything is ok her dad has gone away now, don’t cry. Annie is confused, she was upset because of the noise between her mum and dad, not because of her dad. But being only two and unable to explain that, she settles down and goes to sleep and dreams about swinging up high on the swings and laughing.

The next weekend her dad appears at the door again. Annie does not know how long it is since she last saw him but skips happily over the transition bridge again and sets off down the path. As she does so however, a shadow of a memory passes over her as she turns and waves and sees her mother looking very unhappy. Annie’s internal radar immediately goes into hyper alert, she is confused again, her mother looks unhappy, the noise on the radar starts up, she pulls away from her dad and runs back.

Annie’s dad comes after her and kneels down, he says very quietly to her that they will go and play on the swings again and eat ice-scream, she liked that last time didn’t she? Annie nods and looks up at her mum, who remains looking unhappy and holds her hand. Eventually, after a lot of persuasion, dad prizes Annie’s hand from her mother and picks up Annie and they set off. That afternoon, Annie’s radar is picking up something and she is to preoccupied with the way that this makes her feel to enjoy the swings and the ice cream, today she doesn’t kiss her dad and hug him in the same way, her dad wonders what is going on.

On return home, the noise in the space between her mum and dad is deafening and Annie runs straight up to her room to get away from it. This time she sits in her play tent and will not come out when her mum comes up to see her. Her mum tells her she will do something about it so that she is not unhappy. Annie does not know how to tell her mum that it is the noise between her mum and dad that is causing the problem, that night she does not sleep very well, her internal radar will not quieten.

The following week Annie’s internal radar remains on alert and she is constantly preoccupied by the way it makes her feel. The transition bridge from her mum to her Nanny is too difficult for her to cross now, she is too scared of the whirly feelings that come up each time she tries to leave her mum. This weekend her dad comes to the door but the whirly feelings are so bad that she cannot even go to the door to see him. Her dad goes away. Annie is left alone with her mum who cuddles her and tells her that everything will be ok. Annie feels a new feeling inside, it is a flat and heavy feeling. She stays quiet all day and will not eat her lunch.

It is six months before Annie sees her father again, in the period in between the last time she saw him and the next time, her mother has refused to allow her dad to collect her. Her mother says that this is because it is too upsetting for Annie. Her father says its because her mother is influencing Annie to feel anxious and upset. Annie still goes across the transition bridge to see her Nanny, although she doesn’t feel quite so happy when she does these days. Nursery is far too difficult for her and her mother has given up trying to persuade her to go. Annie does not really remember her dad when she is asked about him by a lady who comes to see her. She says that she loves her mum and her Nanny and is happy.

When the lady asks her if she would like to see her dad, Annie is puzzled, she does not know who her dad is. The lady watches one day as Annie goes into a room to see her dad. The lady writes things down as Annie cries when she sees her dad. Annie wants to run up to her dad, she does remember him, all the feelings that she felt about him come rushing up, she remembers laughing and swinging high on the swings and the smell of his coat as he cuddled her.  A memory of something quiet and safe surrounds her father too, but at the same time, so do those whirly feelings that scare her and so, instead of running to her dad she runs outside the door to her mum. Annie cries, she doesn’t want to feel those whirly feelings. Annie’s mother says to the lady that this is how things are. Annie’s dad looks sad but Annie doesn’t see that, her mum takes her home in the car.

Annie does not see her dad ever again. When she is nineteen she goes to look for him but does not find him. He died when she was twelve but no-one told her. Annie struggles with loss and guilt and shame.  She finds relationships difficult and does not trust her feelings.  When she is 22 she enters therapy, the first year of which she spends mostly in tears, grieving for the father she feels responsible for pushing away.

Annie’s story is one of a series of true stories that I have been gathering recently.  Annie is now 23 years old and struggling to understand the past and the feelings of guilt that erupt as she tries to confront the reality of the loss of her father.  Annie is now estranged from her mother, her Nanny died when she was seventeen.  Annie feels alone in the world and is angry about that,  Annie wants to know why there was no-one there to help her or her mother and father cope with separation.  Annie is a casualty of the past forty years, when the consistent message that we have been fed is that children cope and all that matters is that children do not live in poverty.  Annie’s struggle is testament to the reality that family separation hurts children and, as in Annie’s case, leaves them feeling fractured, frightened and alone. Annie leaves me wondering, when will we ever learn?



    1. Nick, I don’t think many adults have been shown the problem in this way – this article is a great way to explain how a child might feel – certainly it does for me.


  1. Oh goodness Karen, I have no words to describe how this makes me feel, but I will try.
    I am sitting in the garden in the beautiful sunshine, bees and butterflies buzzing around, my thoughts are on my granddaughter, absent from our lives for 6 long years and I am wondering what else can I do, should I write again to her mum, should I email, all I can see is the little girl who loved the garden too, who loved planting seeds and watching them grow.
    Tears are falling, as I remember.
    That knot in the pit of my stomach, that never goes away is knotting so tightly again.
    ‘Pull yourself together’ someone inside me says, so I turn on my laptop and there is your post in my Inbox.
    This is how my granddaughter feels, we have let her down, we are not there for her, adults who have made too much ‘noise’ around her, including me, words spoken in anger,upset and desperation.
    I am 60 years old and I can’t mend this heartbreak, for her or for my son.
    I am that grandmother on the other side of the bridge, a bridge too far for her.
    When I spoke to a journalist this week, I said that there are parents who are denied contact and grandparents who are contemplating ending their lives, some have done so,because they can’t continue their lives without their children/grandchildren.
    Children who are also denied contact are also battling with their emotions, trying to recapture the time when all adults in their lives, were quiet,safe and secure.
    A simple request to be loved and cared for by the people they love and care for.
    More tears of the reality of all of this.


  2. Can you write the same story how it should and could have happened? What kind of intervensions are needed and at what point? What are the most favourable outcomes from intervensions designed to heal rather than divide?

    Kind regards


  3. What’s needed is to give children the same protection as adults. Whilst accepting children are vulnerable, the State only applies principals where it suits the state. ‘Vulnerable’ children are removed by local authorities to up OFSTED care targets and coin in on associated financial rewards, and to max up the legal profits. But expect as social worker or court to back up the concept of a child being vulnerable by virtue of brainwashing or coercion, or failure of one parent to allow the child to see the other, and suddenly the authorities are unable to see sense. That form of abuse is the catalyst for the transfer of pounds of private and public wealth into the coffers of the courts and the legal profession.

    Perhaps the bottom line is that all forms of child abuse, from coercion to violent sex abuse and murder, are acceptable in the UK – providing the right people profit and benefit. It may be money, perverse gratification, ideological fervour or creating a stream of unnecessary jobs running off the back of the deliberate failure to protect a developing child’s mental health.

    With the exception of a few initiatives, Karen’s being the best, it is unlikely any of the programs aimed at children have the child as the main beneficiary. Annie was never helped because there’s no money in helping her; it is all channeled on full flow to destroying her. Behind every level of child abuse, follow the money and social position of alleged perpetrator for an explanation as to why it has not been the subject of criminal prosecution. Note the recent refusal by Parliament to update and enforce s.1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 which, if taken seriously, would put most authorities dealing with children in the claim frame.


  4. Bulletin 12, Cafcass website gives us some clues as to why this “case” has such a sad outcome.

    1. In at least two separate instances academic papers are quoted which state that Father’s are unnecessary.
    2. The number one priority in determining where the children should live is to establish “a secure base”………………….in other words the children should have only one home!!!!!!!!
    3. It is dangerous to establish a “pass the parcel” situation for childcare………….in other words they (ie Cafcass) want the child to establish roots at one address, and just visit the other.

    These three points made so clearly on the Cafcass website will only further split the family ties which are already disintegrating. This surely is the wrong approach in a humane society.

    The fact is, as they say, “home is where the heart is”. When two parents split up, because the children are emotionally attached to both of them, in order to save the relationship there has to be two homes. There has to be firm bases at Dads and at Mums and adequate time in each for the children to maintain relationships with both parents.

    In addition to this parents will have to learn how to respect each other again; an ongoing business in some cases I can personally assure you of that!


  5. Hi Andy, if you go to the Family Separation Clinic later this week you will find a downloadable PDF called ‘Ten Steps on the Transition Bridge’ for parents, its a how to do it and things to think about paper for both parents. I am writing more this week which will also go up, you can follow the link to the Clinic from the home page here. K


  6. Beautifully written, Karen. What strikes me about stories like these, apart from the pure human tragedy of them, is that education and a radical change of approach, particularly in terms of robust and appropriate early intervention, will prevent many of them. It seems to me that what is needed can actually be achieved without any change to primary legislation; which makes the ongoing tragedy of these cases all the more unforgivable.


  7. Tears from me also .Annie’s story much like that of my grandson whose mother left the marital home with him when he was 2yrs old. 9 years of conflict with alternate wkends and happy times with Dad.and with me.
    For last 2 yrs all contact denied .He now has a ‘stable’home with mum ,stepdad and 3 step-siblings-.and 2 other sets of grandparents.So with false allegations and P.A. no chance of a look in for me and my son.
    We have both had suicidal thoughts but realise that would not help my grandson.
    What is going on in his mind?
    Looking back there have been signs of sadness and conflict.Although my son has had counselling mum has always been intransigent about any counselling /mediation for her or child.
    Early mandatory intervention might have saved so much pain for both parents and all concerned -but most of all for my beautiful grandson.


  8. StuG sums it up best here. The problem is that nobody wants to believe that this is how things are. People would rather think that this is all just down to outdated or warped social policies, which have nothing to do with money. That allows us to go on imagining that we still stand a chance, that things could be better.


  9. A legal principle needs to be very firmly established that children of separated parents have two homes. The law needs to work from that presumption.


    1. Without starting another round of arguing about this, can you explain exactly how this would have helped Annie Paul? It is not the legal structure that caused her loss of her father, it is the lack of information her mother and father had about attachment, separation and children’s anxiety. Children who live in two homes suffer more than any others with transitional difficulties, that is why all of the single parent groups want kids to live in one home only. If we are going to deal with children’s relationships with both of their parents we are going to have to teach parents about transitions and attachment and how to manage them. In australia, this is exactly what they did and it worked. Just changing the law however is not the magic bullet, far from it.


      1. How can I explain, Karen? Not in a few words unfortunately. The answer briefly, is that over twenty years of Children Act law has not worked.

        The law itself does not create finite parenting solutions or formulas. We all know that. The law here should act purely an an enabler – of sound, sane parenting solutions to problems that arise when parents separate. In its present form, the Children Act has failed miserably. It creates a winner and a loser and no amount of tinkering with the verbiage will change that because, as you spell out so well yourself, it is founded on an underlying philosophy that is divisive and discriminatory – best expressed in its creation of the inferior, second class “contact” parent. I am also strongly of the opinion that, despite the law stating explicitly and expressly to the contrary, fathers ARE the natural guardians of their own children – a sacrosanct, evolutionary-driven status which no amount of law can ever really remove. On this particular point of duality, the law should encourage, not, as it does, discourage, the notion that children of separated parents have two loving homes.

        Inherent flexibility is required when it comes to children and no one is saying that in all situations the children of separated parents must have two homes. What is well known from research, however, is that a schedule of alternating weekends with the father is generally insufficient to meet most children’s needs and is likely to lead to long term impairment of the father-child relationship. Stability is important. However, what the research has shown – and what the Trinders of this world have tried to cover up with their phony research to promote their single mother ideal – is that stability of the parental relationship is more important than stability of geographical location. Children attend school. They stay with relatives. They stay in daycare and so on. What helps children avoid the negative consequences of being raised by parents who live apart is to create strong, healthy relationships with both parents. And it is difficult to create a strong, healthy parent-child bond if the child sees you only as much as he might see an aunt or grandparent. Having two homes helps to overcome that divide and the law, in my view, should both work from that perspective and encourage it.

        Family law is an incredibly powerful force – for good or bad. Parental alienation itself largely derives from the way family law and surrounding social policy provides for and almost encourages its development. Law and social policy must come together to counteract this still-unrecognised but developing evil and the two home concept does just that.


  10. You have a good point Karen but I think that the problem is that it is in nobody’s interest to help parents understand, and moreover it is not something that the parent with control would even care to understand. Paul is right, but of course it is in nobody’s financial interest to change the law, except the children. And they apparently count for nothing. I myself think the only solution is direct action of the kind that exposes the harm that family law does so that the righteous charities that claim to care about children are shown up as wholly fraudulent, and can no longer deny the abuses they have perpetuated.


  11. As an addendum to the point I made about transitions and shared/ equal care……
    I feel the transition problems are a worthwhile price to pay for ‘two homes’ and that using the transition problems as excuse to prevent shared care is disingenuous. (I know you are wise enough not do that, Karen, and do not want to be perceived as implying that is the interpretation you have on shared care transitions). The permanent and incurable damage to the child of missing or poor attachments and relationships far outweighs the fleeting problems of shared care transitions , which are easily fixed.


    1. No I am absolutely do not wish to portray transition problems as being a reason not to share care Stu but neither do I wish to have children in an emotional and psychological place of fragility and potential damage. When children are alienated, which is the end result of transition, it serves no purpose whatsoever to act in ways that damage kids further, especially when it is possible for every parent to understand utilise the skills of supporting a child to attach and detach and sychronisation of emotional and psychological mood. The combinaton of mother and father brings about a particular empathic and boundaried mix for a child, the separation of the family exposes the child to unadulterated difference in psychology, emotional response and physicality. A child sychronises well with the parent they live with a lot and so shared parenting, where both parents spend good amounts of time with a child enables the skill of each parent to be put to use in combining empathy and boundary in a mix that the child can understand and cope with. What I do not support, is the notion that time is all a child needs, separated parents need skills, patience, empathy and consistent attendance to children to ensure that there are no alignment issues and the attachment remains secure, this is why I will not put my backing to the idea that all it takes is two homes and job done, I dont believe that, I never have and I never will and that is from a personal as well as professional view point having brought up two children in a 50/50 shared care arrangement


  12. What is wrong is that parents separate, that is the reason why kids go through what they do, the second concentric circle around that is the industry set up to help parents navigate that and that is run as much by men as women, the third thing wrong is next concentric circle which is CAFCASS, Social Services and their basic attachment philosophy, the single interest grous are the fourth concentric circle that we have to largely framed around mothers versus fathers. As therapists, working through the way that these concentric circles cause each parent to become distanced and dislocated from what really matters is the major task at hand. If it were just about parents who need guidance through hard times in their lives it would be oh so much easier, sadly its not, its rooted in women’s rights, fathers responses to women’s rights and kids who get trapped in concentric circles of hell at times where one, two or ten homes and presumptions to boot wouldn’t make a jot of difference. Clear all those concentric circles away and then your two homes might stand a chance but you would still have kids who have transition problems and transitons problems hurt kids, sometimes badly, a fact we all have to face up to in my view. Transition problems denote damaged attachment bonds and the swifter parents earn how to reverse transition problems in kids the better and one can do it alone, it doesnt always require two in tango.


  13. Hi Karen – I have read with interest your above comments. You know that I have always supported 50/50 shared care on separation. However, your comments above make perfect sense to me. For background information for other readers, my son’s position is shared care, 3.5 days week one, 2.5 days week two. That was agreed through a court order in 2009. There was a second round of more complicated court proceedings last year, ex. dil wanted to decrease time, my son wanted to increase time, result was extra holiday time only.

    You would imagine from that, that indeed the job is done as both parents are able to continue with a loving relationship with their children.

    I can’t explain clearly and put logically into words why I have an underlying feeling that the job might have been done, but could so easily be undone. I have discussed with my son on several occasions the notion of the transitional bridge between the two parents and how the children should be helped and supported in crossing between the two homes. However, it is imperative that both parents are aware of this process, it won’t work otherwise and parents need to be educated at the point of separation.

    I know perfectly well that my grandchildren are aware of certain tensions and that it can affect them, particularly the older child. However, my youngest grandson having been announcing proudly for the last four years that he has two homes, one with mum and one with dad, suddenly announced this week that he has only got one home and its with mum and that when mum gets married he is going to have a stepfather. Why was that I wonder?

    Knowing my ex.dil so well it does not take much imagination to work out that her preference would be for the family unit to consist of her, her partner and the two children. If my son were not in the picture and the bond he has with his children were damaged in some way, I doubt it would concern her.

    I still firmly believe the law should play its part in establishing the entitlement for a child to have meaningful contact with both parents, but there is no law that can prevent one of those parents drip feeding their own personal desires to the children. It’s a subtle, incidious process which causes irreparable harm and damage to the children. I really don’t know what can be done to eliminate such behaviour or at least minimise it.


    1. This is my post – posted twice as I forgot to put my user name on the post and did not think it would be published.


  14. Hi Karen – I was very interested to read your two comments above. You know that I have always been a firm believer in 50/50 shared care at the point of separation. However four years down the line from my son’s divorce, your comments above make perfect sense to me.

    For others reading my post, my son’s background is a shared care court order 2.5 days week one, 3.5 days weeks two. This was established in 2009. There has been a second more complicated court case, my ex. dil wanting to reduce contact and my son wanting to increase contact a bit further. The outcome was half all holidays incorporated into the original order.

    So why do I have this underlying feeling that the job has not been done, or at least it has, but it could so easily be undone? It is something that is difficult to put clearly and logically into words. I have talked with my son on several occasions about the notion of a transitional bridge between two homes and how essential it is for the children to be emotionally helped and supported in crossing it. However, as you righly say Karen, in order for this to work to best effect, it is essential that both parents should be educated at the point of separation to ensure that the children are not damaged by any conflict caused by their separation.

    I know from personal experience that my two grandchildren have felt the effects of divorce, particularly the eldest. However, last week, my youngest grandchild after pronoucing proudly for the last four years that he has two homes, one with mum and one with dad, has suddenly announced that he has only got one home and it is with mum. Why would this be after four years?

    Knowing my ex.dil as well as I do, I have little doubt that the family unit of her choice would be her, her partner and the two children. If the bond between my son and his children were slowly discontinued or even severed, she would have no real concerns. She has already strongly emphasised to the children that her partner is now their step-father.

    Whilst I still firmly believe that the law must be the starting point to ensure that children are entitled to a meaningful relationship with both of their parents, I am uncertain what can be done, when one of those parents systematically drip feeds their personal opinions and desires to the children. It is a covert and incidious process which can cause irreparable damage to the children. It is impossible to legislate against such behaviour and parents should be taught swiftly and clearly at the point of separation, the dangers to the children of adopting such behaviour.


  15. This could be seen as a circular argument, tho, and one that effectively legitimises the wrongdoing of the courts.

    The most recent forensic psycho-legal research from Italy found that their judiciary were ordered by statutory instrument to apply the law properly and award joint custody as a routine outcome in cases where no safety issues were proven. So, they ignored it first time, and had to be told specifically again. That’s society paying twice for wayward judges to be doing what they should. The judges ignored it again, which must have led to threats, because they then started to obey the law. Joint custody began to be the norm. However, the swine awarded joint custody, but kept contact orders low. So you had dads with a few hours a month with joint custody. In other words, the judges were interested only in keeping the revolving door of litigation open. Our judiciary are no different.

    Predictably, then come the problems. A sub-culture develops, with its own language, to benefit from judicial behaviour. That minority (or so we are told) ruin the development of their children, transition problems being one of the most potent problems inflicted on the child.

    The cure for rabies, I am told, feels worse for the patient than the disease. Same for heroin withdrawal. But we do not deny treatment. with heroin withdrawal we do it as often as it is needed; it is only financial and resource constraints that may impose limits. We only deny treatment where the patient is not strong enough, whilst building that strength. The first thing we do is remove the patient from the environment harming them. Heroin withdrawal rarely, if ever works, if the addict is allowed to roam the same district, with all the historical psychological triggers.

    Transition is not necessarily the result of alienation, but most of the time , it is. The only practical way to solve the problem is to remove the child from that environment and place the child, permanently or temporarily, into to the care of the safer parent motivated to handle the situation properly. That’s all it is, a condition arising from a situation; change the situation, you change the condition. If both parents are the problem, then you need to create the safer parent situation first. The first parent to respond may well be the resident parent, but likely not. Only in cases where the safe situation cannot be created can it be justified for the child to remain with an alienator, as the only option, if not close kinship care, is removal, which heaps more damage than alienation.

    To leave a child with an alienator for no reason other than the lack of resources or judicial will to make interim residence transfers, then claim the degree of the problem precludes solving it because the transition bridge cannot be crossed, shows what a poor state we’re in. It effectively rubberstamps and maintains judicial activism, the real root of this disease, and the biggest situation that needs to be addressed. Activist judges create a set of over-arching circumstances and barriers that are nigh on impossible to work within. It leads to an overall condition where children, parents and society have to live with the effects of alienation because the basic, very basic, circumstances consequent mean that resources are burnt up, and we give up. Given time, resources, training and staunch judicial support, transition problems should be a doddle to cure. Claiming that two homes is damaging to transition problem kids seems like an attempt to justify failure. It may well be best to leave the child in the situation if we genuinely cannot solve it with what we have have, or what the judiciary leave us with, which is nothing, after they have ensured that only the lawyers are resourced. The Government, in allowing the family courts to deal with these issues, is paying the wrong people. But let’s leave and direct the blame to where it belongs – with the legal profession, and it’s apologist profiteer hangers on, not with ‘two homes.’


    1. Can I just poitn out Stu that removal from an alienating parent in a pure case of alienation is far less damaging than the alienation, in those cases, you take the children from the parent who cannot support relationships with the other parent and place them with the one who can, when you do you get astonishing results. A child who is living withe an alienating parent in a pure case is truly captured and their reality distorted, removal relieves this immediately. In hybrid cases (and many are such) its far more complex an issue. Also, the issue with these cases is often that there is an attachment disorder being inclucated in the child, parentification being the most common, a child who is rejecting a parent because they have to look after the other one is in a dangerous emotional and psychological place.


  16. Nobody except the critics has ever portrayed two homes as some naive magic pill. Those who support 50/50 are not so dumb as to think this, and not so dumb as to believe that this will suit everyone across the board. What the advocates of two homes are saying is that inasmuch as children are born of two parents, there needs to be a presumption in theory that 50/50 is a starting point. Anything less and you are just running around like headless chickens, tampering with things that might actually be best left alone. Right now our starting point is either 1) no time with dad at all; or 2) alternative weekends with dad. This is the source of all the misery, the progenitor of false allegations and alienation tactics, and no tinkering with social policies or replacement of CAFCASS is going to matter until this outdated presumption/default is thrown out once and for all. It is this presumption/default that creates all the power imbalances, and sets up the adversarial win/lose logic that those profiting from this state of affairs depend on. Take all of the politics and money out of family law, introduce 50/50 as a starting point, penalize false allegations, parental alienation and contact denial as you would similar crimes, and then we can start talking again about how to take care of the emotional effects of divorce where children are involved.


  17. I dont think we are arguing from two different stand points, I am saying that two homes work and two homes and good division of time is what is necessary but I am also saying that those children who live in two homes are also those who suffer transition problems the most. That is because, as was shown in Australia, the 50/50 starting point does not resolve the arguments between parents, it ratchets up the arguments as each side sets about proving why children should NOT live between two parents and the legal industry in Australia used that to profit from ongoing problems. Over time the legal route to challenge was less used as the challenges were made less and less as parents got used to what was expected of them and the community based services stepped in to support the change, but it was the education, support and encouragement from the community services which changed that Alongside the change in the law, read the report on the 2006 Reforms, its all laid out. children who move between homes are in a particular psychological place and it is incumbent upon both parents to understand that and help their children achieve transition, to do that parents are going to have to understand how to do that otherwise their kids will vote with their feet and refuse to transition eventually. Also, kids, eventually stop transitioning, our kids stopped when they got to 18, having lived half their lives with their mother and half their lives with their father from he age of 4 and 6 and now home is when they go to their mothers house when they are not at uni or working, whilst ours is where they visit which is fine, our relationship with them is relaxed, its strong, its flexible, which is how it should be. i have worked with many transition children over the years, I know that this is not a black and white issue, this is the relational world which you cannot legislate for but, if you combine legislation with the relational support services you do stand a chance of changing kids lives until they are old enough to decide for themselves where their home is, which all kids have the right to do eventually and all of us adults have to be able to let go and let them, its what being a parent is all about. We make a very big mistake to concentrate only on legislation and two homes being the answer, its not, its only a part of the answer and actually a fairly small part at that.


    1. I don’t think Professor Parkinson, one of the principal architects of Australian family law reform, would agree with you. He would disagree with your assertion that the problems there have been ratcheted up by expectations of 50:50 shared parenting. In fact he states that the legal reforms there have calmed the waters considerably.

      There is no legal presumption of 50:50 shared parenting in Australian law anyway. That is another myth. The only requirement is that in certain circumstances the court must consider such an arrangement. Judges have pretty much the same degree of latitude as they do in the UK.

      What is important in my opinion – for the reasons I expressed above – is for the law to explicitly presume that a child of separated parents henceforth has two homes. The division of time actually spent in each is a completely separate issue altogether.


      1. I have met and worked with Professor Parkinson who was clear that the change in the law in 2006 pushed up litigation before it calmed it down. He was also clear that it was community services which contributed to enabling two homes to be possible and transition problems to be calmed. We have worked with australian relationship centres, we trained Bundaberg to deliver our parenting support course in 2010, go back and read the report on the 2006 reforms before you make assertions to the contrary Paul. Whilst the change in the law in Australia has made differences, it is communi services which have enabled those differences to be embedded. Not sure what your comment about two homes and the law being different issues actually means, not sure how one is supposed to legislate for two homes, can see how the law can be changed to bring in a presumption of two homes. To my mind the issue of time is by far the largest and most signficant aspect of this but no-one, not even you seems to go near that issue. Two homes are only esablished by a good division of time otherwise what you have is one primary home and the other as a place to visit. Kids do not magically become what you want them to become just because you tell them they have two homes you know, there is an awful lot more goes on around the establishment psychologically of having two places that you call home not one.


      2. I fail to see how any change in primary legislation would have changed the story in Karen’s post; the child’s relationship with her father was not caused by a flaw in legislation but by human behaviour- for which we can’t really legislate.

        I’m also a little puzzled by the fixation with Australia in some quarters. My understanding of the situation there (and I stand to be corrected on this) is that many separated dads still only get alternate weekends- but it’s called “Shared Parenting” If there is any substantive change to outcomes, I’d look to whatever investment was made in education and support services for an explanation, rather than the legislative presumption itself which will have been little more than the ribbon on the parcel.

        Why not look closer to home; to Denmark, Sweden and other more advanced societies with proper welfare states, social services and equality based social policies? Some of these countries have 50/50 split of time as the default and it seems to generally work rather well (they consistently rank highest for child well-being (if we accept UNICEF studies) It might be productive to see what we can learn from them, rather than obsessing over labels; labels backed by none of the investment in education and support services that might give them substance.


  18. mmm the time factor. its the one we (dads) all get hung up over. I did and still do at times. I suppose you get so beaten down and pushed aside that its the norm? having to request a copy of school reports again does little to built the parental self esteem.
    its strange.
    when i came into it i was horrified to be told i would have them every other weekend and one overnight mid week. you enter the world of them not being with you. later you enter the world of them being with another man in their lives. we convince ourselves that we do all that we can to promote soft landings for our children but in many ways i wonder if that is possible? their lives are redrawn by us, what we do and where we go.

    i am not convinced by 50/50 and i hate to say it. i know where it has happened and one parent has been alienated, i know where it was supported and the adult children say they did not like it. i suspect there are a million and one outcomes. it works for some i am sure but it is not a one size fits all solution. i prefer a presumption of contact (Norway) which is why the fjord people always get my vote at eurovision.

    you need time but what do you do with it? a mixture of school time and leisure time is the window that allows you to parent i suppose.
    Is this their home? its a very emotive word. I remember being hung up on that. I even referred to it in front of the children (we have our flaws). Now its dads or at times “the flat” Grrr. (thanks mum).
    In time i think the word becomes more meaningless.
    Louden Wainwright wrote:
    “The reason that they came to town,
    was just to make the place their own”.

    Their backsides stick out of the fridge here. At times i can hear a clandestine raid on a biscuit tin. A friend of my eldest boy described it as a castle (its a first floor flat). Perhaps its ok if their home is with mum and in the house i remember them coming back to? tiny and crying yet such small bundles that kept the house and beyond on their toes?

    I think the physical is important. that they have their own space. Last week my ten year old rearranged the bookcase so he had his corner. His section. A money box (for homework) two pictures. A tin box that held sweets that he brought back from Spain for me after a holiday with mum. A small ribbon from a cancer awareness run neatly stretched across that corner of a book case.

    As a child we moved five times as an army family. We adjusted i suppose but another home of a different sort became more important to me.

    Your goal i suppose is to parent and maintain the bond you have. My old man left when i was sixteen for a small bedsit. He was a year away and when he returned it was never the same anyway. my mother never forgave him. i saw him three times and i was full of anger. i left for England when i was eighteen. He took me to the boat and i hugged him and told him i loved him. Last week i spoke to my brother about it. He is ten years older. He would go of his own accord and sleep on a neat military style camp bed set up there by the old man. In the bed sit. I never knew.

    They will drift as they grow. Time will probably be less but that would be the case anyway. I await the taxi/cash point era. Then who knows. the occasional phone call? the fleeting visit. perhaps? By then please god they will be starting their own journey? It will be a big adjustment for me. Likewise for their mum too. it will sound selfish but it will be time for me too. I am not sure if Gingerbread include us (my experience is yes but on a superficial level) but its hard and exhausting to parent alone and on what seems like the edge of their lives? I may even have a trip round the fjords or have more time to walk the old town in La Habana.

    I remember the bed sit. He heated Heinz vegetable soup. He hugged me at the end and i would not hug him back. The last time i saw him he was dying. he had cancer. It was pre hospital and diagnosis. He was tired all the time. He got out of bed and took my step son fishing. A small trout the prize that came back with us in the car.

    I hugged him as i left and kissed his forehead. He was crying as we stepped into the car. He knew. As we drove away i watched him in the rear view mirror. Waving his cap. I could swear there were tears still on his cheeks. I can see it now as clear as day.

    Yes time is important. A home? let them find that but as important as the physical construct may be the home where rests the heart? We had many homes. The home i loved the most was the one that was always there anyway. Always. It could never be bought nor sold. Ever. But then love never can.


    1. El Dermo your heart your home and your family all rolled into one, your gift is to express the very meaning of life itself. Thank you for that.


      1. Me too, I think el dermo should be writing his own blog so good is he at shaping the reality of feeling and emotion x


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