The current author considers the role of the natural parent while living to
have rights and responsibilities for the child/children he/she has brought
into this world. The name given to the child by the natural parent should
be considered sacrosanct. This normally occurs when a custodial parent,
usually the mother, has a new partner and seeks a change in the
child’s name to that of the new partner. It is the view of the expert
witness that unless there are very special circumstances, a child’s
surname should not be changed to the name of the step-father or any other
name while the natural father is alive. The courts should support this by
I have a new Parent!
(The ensuing problem leading to parental alienation scenarios)
The title represents what the child expresses when a stranger comes
into the family of mother/father who had previously been absent. The
expression “I have a new parent” sometimes occurs and causes
confusion in the child about the new individual coming into his life and
living with mummy/daddy.
As an expert witness in the courts I am increasingly faced with the
following ongoing developing scenarios:
1) Couples with children who
have separated due to an acrimonious relationship;.
2) Couples where one or both
feel and express serious problems based on the implacable hostility towards
3) The hostility and its
effects are especially powerful when expressed by the parent who has
custody of the children and thereby has total power and control over the
child. Such parents, frequently use such powers to
restrict or totally disallow contact between the child and the now absent
parent for no valid reason.
4) The result is not in the
best interest of the child. The child is now in an unfair conflict
situation and needs to balance his/her love for the absent parent and
pressure from the custodial
parent who seeks to prevent contact between the child and the absent
5) An expert psychological
consultant is needed at this point working with solicitors, barristers and
the courts to seek a solution which will be in the best interest of the
child and secondarily, the parents.
6) To achieve this the hostility between the parents requires a
changing of their attitudes and behaviour. Initially this may be via the
courts recommending mediation. If the hostility, however, is so implacable
that mediation is unsuccessful then the court will need to make decisions
with the help of the expert witness.
7) Expert witnesses are
supposed to be “independent” in their judgement and the advice
they give. Experts, however, differ in how they interpret their role. They
also have certain views or principles which guide them in what advice they
8) Impartiality is important
but so are also guidelines in how best to deal with the implacable
hostility between the parents. Most custodial parents are mothers, while
most absent parents are fathers. The roles of course can be reversed.
9) The main principle of the
writer is that both parent should have good
(positive, valued) contact with their child preferably on a 50:50 basis.
The exception is when both or either parent is accused and it is proven
that abuse of the child has, or is likely to occur.
10) Any parent who prevents
contact between a good parent and a child is not behaving in the best
interests of the child and may be said to be practicing a form of
“emotional abuse” involving the child based on parental
11) On the whole, the family
courts in the UK
are indecisive about what to do when contact orders are established by the
Court between the child and the absent parent and the custodial parent
fails to abide by such rulings. This is frequently due to claiming that the
child in question does not “wish” contact with the absent
parent for no valid reason.
12) When this occurs, there
may be the need to remove that child after due warnings to the custodial
parent has been given. If the warning to the custodial parent has been
ignored it could end with the result of change of custody for the child.
The alternative to this is placing the child in a neutral environment where
the alienated parents is assured of having regular
good contact with the child.
13) For a specified time the
custodial parent who has been alienating should have no contact with the
child until the alienated parent has had the opportunity of re-establishing
a positive relationship with the child who has been emotionally abused by
the custodial parent.
14) Matters are compounded,
as the title suggests, when the child has been encouraged to regard the new
partner of the mother/father as a substitute for the absent parent.
15) Such alienating tactics
practiced by either parent are wrong. The child needs to be made aware that
there are only two natural parents in his/her life. These should provide
the optimum care of the child and the child must consider the natural
parents as their real parents..
16) Step fathers/mothers
frequently find it difficult to know what is their role
in the new family. They should never assume that their role is to be a
“substitute” for the absent, natural parent. They should never
be addressed as “mummy/daddy”. They are not and should never be
considered an intimate part of the natural family from whom the child
springs. At best they should be regarded as step-parents and called by
their first name.
17) Step parents are in a
difficult position vis a vis
the child. They should never involve themselves in disciplining the child.
That should be left to the natural parent/s to do when the child is in
18) Failure to adhere to this
rule should mean the child no longer being placed with the parent who
encourages, or even insists, that the new partner has the right to take the
place of the natural parent by being called “mummy/daddy”, or “father/mother”
19) Step parents must be aware of the limiting function they can play
in their contact with the step child/children. The step-father/mother must
accept their role as being peripheral to the natural family. This will
prevent much animosity between the natural parents, who fear being
displaced bv a stranger in the form of the new
The role of the court
important that the role of the court supports the view of the independent
expert witness in the matter of name changing following a break-up of a
relationship based on hostility. The court should forbid the change of name
of a child/children from that of the living
natural parent, the father, to that of the name of the new partner who is
normally the step-father.
parental alienation cases frequently such change in name is sought by a
mother who seeks to obliterate the role of the natural parent,
that is the birth father. Such an alienating parent will claim that
the new step-parent’s name should prevail rather than the natural
father’s name. Usually such action by the mother is based on
implacable hostility leading to a divorce or separation from the natural
father of the child.
Changing of the name in parental alienation cases is ultimately an
illustration of the alienation of the natural parent.
The paternity of a child in such a case should be considered as only
being the natural still living parent.
Following the death of the natural
parent such a ruling could well be reversed.
However, while the natural parent is alive the child should bear the name of that parent unless
there are very good reasons for obliterating the name of the natural parent