Quand un juge présente ses excuses à un père

Courts and Tribunal Judiciary

Stephen Wildblood (© D.R.)

Stephen Wildblood (© D.R.)

Événement inimaginable en France, un magistrat anglais, Stephen Wildblood, juge des affaires familiales à Bristol, a présenté ses excuses les plus officielles à un père, diabolisé par la mère de ses enfants, au terme d’une longue et éprouvante procédure. Il a souhaité rendre publique sa décision prise aujourd’hui dans une affaire d’aliénation parentale particulièrement atroce, afin de faire connaître au plus grand nombre les ravages pouvant être causés dans une famille lorsqu’un parent aliène des enfants de leur autre parent.

En l’espèce, un père avait initié une procédure en 2011 pour maintenir des relations avec ses enfants. Au fil des huit années suivantes eurent lieu trente-six audiences ainsi qu’une dizaine d’interventions de différents professionnels (psychiatres, psychologues et travailleurs sociaux). Dans l’espoir que puisse être rétablie la relation entre les enfants et leur père, un transfert temporaire de résidence fut même décidé en 2017, mais les enfants s’enfuirent du domicile paternel. Comprenant que le mal était irrémédiable, le père finit par se résoudre à demander que soit mis un terme à la procédure judiciaire. Contre l’avis d’un expert psychiatre, le juge Wildblood a entériné aujourd’hui la demande du père dans une décision assez exceptionnelle, qui condamne sans appel tant le comportement de la mère que le fonctionnement du système judiciaire. En voici les extraits les plus significatifs :

« 1.  In a recent report to the court, one of this country’s leading consultant child and adolescent psychiatrists, Dr Mark Berelowitz, said this: “this is one of the most disconcerting situations that I have encountered in 30 years of doing such work.” I have been involved in family law now for 40 years and my experience of this case is the same as that of Dr Berelowitz. It is a case in which a father leaves the proceedings with no contact with his children despite years of litigation, extensive professional input, the initiation of public law proceedings in a bid to support contact and many court orders. It is a case in which I described the father as being “smart, thoughtful, fluent in language and receptive to advice;” he is an intelligent man who plainly loves his children. […]

« 2. No professional has suggested that there is anything about this father that renders him unsuited to have contact with his children; there have been consistent recommendations throughout the eight-year history of these proceedings from a wide spectrum of professionals that contact should take place between the father and the children. All professionals involved in this case have concluded that the mother has alienated the children from the father. In an exceptional but accurate use of language Dr Berelowitz said this: “the mother has done very much more than simply not promoting the children’s relationship with their father. Indeed, it is my impression that she has, at best, allowed the demonisation of the father and, at worst, actively encouraged this demonisation on the basis that it is right to do so… She is unable to perceive herself as being an agent or a cause.


« 4. [The children] will have nothing to do with their father or his family. They would not even acknowledge cards or presents that he has sent. When he wrote entirely appropriate letters and cards to them, the children expressed unjustified and illogical complaint about their contents. They also express false memories of how he has behaved towards them in the past.


« 6. [This] is such an exceptional case that I think it is in the public interest for the wider community to see an example of how badly wrong things can go and how complex cases are where one parent (here the mother) alienates children from the other parent.


« 10. It is beyond doubt that, in the long-term, what has occurred within this family will cause these children significant and long-term emotional harm, even if they cannot understand that now. I have said it and so have all the experts in this case. I am afraid that the cause of that harm lies squarely with this mother; whatever may be her difficulties, she is an adult and a parent with parental responsibility for her children. That parental responsibility, which she shares with the father, requires her to act in the best interests of her children. It also required her to promote the relationship between these children and their father. She has failed to do so. She had adult choices to make; the choices that she made were bad ones and deeply harmful to the children.


« 13. With all the benefit of hindsight, I consider that there were these ten factors which have contributed significantly to the difficulties that have arisen:

  1. There was a failure to identify, at an early stage, the key issue in this case – the alienation of the children from their father by the mother. By the time that it was identified, the damage had been done.
  2. Overall there has been significant delay within these proceedings.
  3. At the early stage of the private law proceedings the case was adjourned repeatedly for further short reviews. […]
  4. At no point prior to my involvement in 2017 was there a full hearing on evidence to determine what was going on in this family. […]
  5. The use of indirect contact in a case where there is parental alienation has obvious limitations, as this case demonstrates. The father’s letters, cards and presents were being sent by him into a home environment where he was “demonised”, to use the terminology of Dr Berelowitz. They served no purpose in maintaining any form of relationship between the father and the children. It is regrettable that there was not more perseverance in the earlier private proceedings to resolve the obstructions to contact.
  6. These proceedings have seen a vast number of professionals. I have counted 10 and I am sure that I have omitted some. The difficulty that that creates is obvious. Each new person brings a new, personal and different insight into a case of this nature. Family members (especially children) are embarrassed about speaking of personal issues with strangers, develop litigation fatigue and learn to resent the intrusions into their lives by a succession of professional people. As the children have done, people reach a stage where they say: “no more.”
  7. A particular difficulty in this case has been the absence, at times, of collaborative working by professionals. A particular example of that occurred when an attempt was made to move the children to the father’s care. The professionals involved with the court process and the schools had not had sufficient dialogue before that move was attempted and now have very strong and opposing opinions about what occurred and the merits of moving the children from the mother. Pre-planning for the move was inadequate, in my opinion. If professional people show their disagreements, as happened here on the day of transfer, it undermines the process and allows cherry-picking by family members of what they want to hear.
  8. Early intervention is essential in a case such as this, in my opinion. It did not occur in this case. It took years (probably five) to identify the extent of the emotional and psychological issues of the mother. By that stage it was too late for there to be any effective psychotherapeutic or other intervention in relation to her, the children’s views having already become so entrenched.
  9. There is an obvious difficulty about how to approach the expressed wishes and feelings of children who are living in an alienating environment such as this. If children who have been alienated are asked whether they wish to have a relationship with the non-resident parent there is a likelihood that the alienation they have experienced will lead them to say “no.” […]
  10. It was unfortunate that the joinder of the children to the second set of proceedings was so delayed.


« 19. My final words in this judgment must be directed to the father. This has been a long, heart-breaking and expensive set of events for you to endure. I am truly sorry that this is the outcome and I do hope that you will find some happiness in the future despite all that has occurred. »

La principale leçon à tirer de cette triste affaire est assez simple : de façon générale, le tempo judiciaire n’est pas du tout adapté au tempo familial. Or, en cas d’aliénation parentale, une intervention précoce est essentielle. Si le problème est repéré trop tard, comme ce fut le cas en l’espèce, un préjudice important et irrémédiable en résulte à terme pour les enfants et leurs parents.

Il faut enfin souligner que le juge Wildblood est un spécialiste de l’aliénation parentale. Nos lecteurs les plus attentifs se souviennent sans doute de son intervention lors d’une conférence sur le sujet organisée en octobre 2017 par nos camarades de Families Need Fathers – à toutes fins utiles, nous remettons ci-dessous un hyperlien vers le discours qu’il avait alors prononcé.

England and Wales Family Court
Date : 24 septembre 2019
Décison : Re A (Children) (Parental alienation) [2019] EWFC B56

Attention ! La jurisprudence et la loi évoluent en permanence. Assurez-vous auprès d’un professionnel du droit de l’actualité des informations données dans cet article, publié à fin d’information du public.

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