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Implacable hostility arises after separation or divorce and denotes the attitude shown by one parent to another in denying access to, or contact with, their child(ren). What differentiates implacable hostility from the typical hostility that may arise after separation/divorce is that the deep-rooted nature of the hostility cannot be justified on rational grounds and measures taken by third parties including mediators and the family courts are to no avail.
Cases of implacable hostility are increasingly being seen as domestic violence and as a human rights abuse if not recognised by agencies involved, although it is important not to classify hostility as implacable if it is itself justified by domestic violence perpetrated by the other parent.
The typical outcome of situations of implacable hostility is that the parent to whom implacable hostility is directed becomes excluded from the life of their child(ren). There are two ways in which this exclusion arises.
Firstly, the excluded parent, having exhausted all the avenues available for resolving the situation, finally gives up the effort. This may be done in the belief that the option of withdrawal is best interests of the child(ren) given the stress that inevitably arises from repeated applications for access/contact.
Secondly, the child(ren) may become parentally alienated — they deny that they want to see the excluded parent. Once a child has become alienated from the excluded parent, the originating implacable hostility becomes subsidiary. From this point, the formerly implacably hostile parent often claims that they are supportive of access/contact but they have to respect the wishes of the child. Family courts are usually unwilling to force children to see one of their parents against their expressed wishes - and often fail to examine the cause of such statements.
Various theories have been put forward to explain the prevalence of implacable hostility:
- Control theory: Whichever parent has residence of the children may exercise power over the other parent. This may be done in pursuit of an unresolved grievance, for revenge, punishment or mere vindictiveness.
- Financial theory: Financial resources follow the residence of the children. The accommodation, child support, child social security benefits etc. provide an incentive for one parent to fight to retain residence of /care and control over the children.
- Psychological theory: One version of this holds that the powerful maternal instinct overrides even the claims of the father especially in circumstances where the mother feels threatened that she may lose control of the child, or is concerned lest the child become attached to the man whom she now doesn't love.
In some extreme causes of divorce, parents might seek revenge on each other (or causer of separation) and do an extreme action to harm either the child or the opposite gender parent. Extreme cases include suicide, murder, and kidnapping. Most often the child is harmed.