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Emotional harm and interim removal: how psychological thinking can support practice

Date:25 NOV 2020
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Dr Ben Laskey ClinPsyD, AFBPS, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, The Psychology Partnership
George Butler, Barrister at Law, 42 Bedford Row Chambers

The family courts are full of cases involving children who have been exposed to harmful behaviour which is said to impact their emotional and psychological, as opposed to their physical, welfare. While it is often easy to describe this harmful behaviour it's much harder to draw direct evidential links between harmful behaviour and harmful outcomes for children. This is particularly true when looking at allegations of emotional harm that arise at the start of proceedings before assessments have been completed.

This article explores, from both a legal and psychological perspective, the particular issues which can arise when considering emotional harm in the context of interim removal cases. Starting with the premise that a child should not be removed from her parents’ care on an interim basis unless her welfare needs, including her emotional and psychological welfare needs, leave no viable alternative; the article examines the tools that psychologists use to analyse harmful outcomes from children and looks at the way these might used by advocates to frame arguments both in favour of and against interim removal.

The authors address the positive and negative ramifications of the cautious approach taken by the courts in such cases and review whether this approach has solid psychological as well as legal foundations.

The full article will be published in the December issue of Family Law

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