Parental Alienation and the Family Bridges Program
X v. Y, 2016 CarswellOnt 10514
In this decision, Justice Trimble outlines the merits of the Family Bridges Program. The Family Bridges Program is designed for all members of the family in which there has been alienation. Essentially, the program aims to assist families in reforming healthy, loving, respectful bonds between children and both parents.
In February 2016, the Court found that the mother (Y) had alienated one child from the father (X) and began alienating another child. There was also a risk of alienation for the third child. As a result, the Court granted sole custody of the children to the father with no access to the mother. The Court also ordered that the mother, father, and children participate in the Family Bridges program in order to repair the relationship between the parents and the children.
Justice Trimble began by providing an overview of the Family Bridges Program, he noted:
The professionals providing Family Bridges programs are specially and extensively trained in the Family Bridges process, and ensure that the messages and information given to every member of the family, and the assessment of every member of the family in the program is uniform and consistent. That professional, having been involved with all members of the family, is in the best position to determine whether all parties have actively and whole-heartedly participated in the program and met the milestones required.
In this case, the program set out the following milestones for the mother, Y:
- Demonstrated working knowledge of the parent-child alienation in general and with insight into their own specific alienating behaviors;
- Demonstrated compliance with Court orders; and
- Acquired, willingly accepted and complied with the Parallel Parenting Model, which is designed to permit both parents to parent (while recognizing the custodial authority of one, if so ordered in a completely disengaged way.
According to Justice Trimble, the family made great strides while participating in the Family Bridges program. Child A’s behaviour towards her father improved significantly and all three children re-formed their bond with their father. Ultimately, Y indicated that she made remarkable progress within the program and she was made aware of her alienating behaviours and took steps to address them.
Although some courts are skeptical about the Family Bridges program, Justice Trimble demonstrated his support for the program and concluded that it is was in the best interests of the children for all of the X/Y family members to participate.