A judge has described a case in which a mother was accused of using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to deny her ex-partner access to their son as a case of ‘parental alienation’.
The term describes a process through which a child becomes estranged from a parent as the result of the psychological manipulation of another parent.
It is believed to be the first time the term has been recorded in court.
Judge Mary Larkin was making an order at the Family Law Court in Ennis on Thursday, according to a report by Gordon Deegan in the Irish Examiner.
Judge Larkin directed earlier this month, before the 2km Covid-19 restriction was introduced, that the mother provide access of their 12-year-old to his father before Thursday's court date.
But solicitor for the father, Frank Doherty, stated on Thursday that his client will have been denied access to his son 26 times during April and May.
The couple are estranged and live a number of miles apart at different houses in Co Clare.
Jail warning for breach of access
Judge Larkin warned the mother: “I have no difficulty sending someone to jail for breach of access. This is a breach of a court order and you have to comply with court orders.”
In court, the mother stated that she tried to provide access on Friday 10 April, but at the planned handover at an Applegreen service station, she said that her son was upset and didn’t want to go with his father.
The father accused the mother of trying to video the Applegreen encounter on her phone and the mother denied trying to do so.
In her order, Judge Larkin ordered that until the lifting of the COVID-19 lockdown on May 5, the boy and his father were to have daily ‘Facetime’ access.
The judge added that after the lockdown has been lifted, the father was to resume access and all of the access days lost over recent weeks were to be made up over the summer.
Judge Larkin said she was seriously concerned about this child’s ongoing mental health if the situation continued.
She also ordered that the child engage with a child psychotherapist.