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Wednesday
Jul202016

Teenagers mental health improved by contact with fathers

Dr FabriciusTeenagers who think they don’t matter much to their fathers or stepfathers face significant risks to their mental health, according to a study by Dr William Fabricius. The study involved 392 13- to 16-year-olds from communities in Arizona and California in the United States, as reported in the  Child and Family Blog .

Mattering to fathers predicted future mental health over and above mattering to mothers.

The risk to adolescent mental health was also independent of similar, already well-known, levels of risk associated with intimate partner violence between parents as well as frequent and intense but non-violent parental conflict (nagging, arguing, getting angry, and yelling).

    “Although they may tell you that you’re old fashioned, they still want you there. Drive-by fathering doesn’t typically work well for adolescents.”

"The findings of this study should prompt searching questions. We should re-examine how fathers are expected to engage in adolescents’ lives. Our society’s expectations are often dictated by working practices, family norms and parental separation. This study suggests that, because our policies and practices often limit fathers’ engagement, we may be missing opportunities to make children more resilient, and thus to protect them from depression, anxiety, aggression, delinquency and behavioral problems at school."

Wednesday
Jul202016

Poland penalised for court delays in resolving father's contact dispute 

The European Court of Human Rights has awarded a Polish father compensation after ruling that Poland breached Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights.  In the judgement Malec v Poland as reported in Family Law Week the ECHR awarded Mr Malec 7,000 euros in damages and 5,000 euros to cover his legal costs.

The parents separated in 2008, and when contact problems developed the father obtained an interim contact order in November 2010.  His contact with his child became irregular and the conflict between the parents escalated. Subsequently, between May 2011 and January 2012 almost no contact took place. Afterwards, contact took place irregularly, usually only on weekdays and without any overnight stays.

A court appointed guardian pointed out in her report in July 2009 that a "speedy regulation of contact visits between the child and the father is recommended", but it took the domestic court two years to issue an interim contact order. Subsequently, as of May 2011, it had become impossible to have any contact visits.

When the Mr Malec's former wife failed to comply with the court contact orders, the applicant began to file enforcement claims with the District Court. He filed over 50 such requests and they eventually resulted in the District Court ordering the mother to comply with the access arrangements and to the imposition of fines on two occasions, only one being collected by May 2013.  

The ECHR judgement states that: " ... a lack of cooperation between parents who have separated is not a circumstance which can of itself exempt the authorities from their positive obligations under Article 8. It rather imposes on the authorities an obligation to take measures that would reconcile the conflicting interests of the parties, keeping in mind the paramount interests of the child".

FNFS has raised this judgement with the Scottish Courts in connection with our concerns about delays both in the hearing of cases and the issuing judgements.

Wednesday
Jul062016

FNFS family picnic at Wellsfield Farm

We are holding an FNFS picnic for parents and children at Wellsfield Farm Park just outside Denny on Sunday 17th July.  This is the start of our celebrations of five years as a Scottish charity and it will also mark the launch of our Scottish FNFS supporters scheme.

This event is being held to bring people from the various Scottish FNF groups together to meet each other.  FNFS members and people who attend our meetings will get free entry to the park, thanks to support from Wellsfield Farm.  The farm park has a children's play area / adventure fun park suitable for children from 18 months to 16 years of age, and the majority of the attractions inside and outside the park are also suitable for adults and senior citizens.  The park is at Stirling Rd, Denny, Stirlingshire FK6 6QZ - open from 10am until 5.30pm.

Bring your own sandwiches or use their café, and we will have picnic tables reserved for FNFS people to meet up at lunchtime from 12.00am till 2.00pm, with wet weather options in the Fun Shack. There is no charge, but donations to support our work are always welcome.

To attend, fill in the form below and we will send out day tickets and further information.

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Wednesday
Jul062016

SLAB streamlining could speed up action on contact

From June 2016 the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) have introduced changes which are intended to "streamline" various parts of the financial support they offer.  Three are of particular interest in relation to legal action to regain contact with children.

SLAB are amending their approach to granting special urgency cover in cases where contact had previously been operating satisfactorily but the parent with care suddenly ends this contact for, on the face of it, no good reason. 

In those situations SLAB will now grant special urgency cover to allow an immediate court action to be raised to reduce the possibility of various delays to resuming contact, such as the need for a child welfare report, the need for several child welfare hearings and the need to introduce supervised or supported contact. 

SLAB comments that: "Long delays are not beneficial to the child or children who were previously enjoying contact with their non-resident parent and it could cost the public purse more."

Where contact was not operating just before the request for special urgency cover is made SLAB will continue to view this as a matter that can wait until the legal aid application is decided.

The second change relates to the availability of funding for supervised and supported contact to advice and assistance. SLAB have been meeting the costs of supervised and supported contact under civil legal aid since 2012. Since then the number of requests for funding has increased steadily. 

SLAB comments that: "... we want to encourage parties to resolve contact disputes without going to court.  Reducing conflict in relationship breakdowns where there are children involved and offering less contentious ways of settling such disputes will benefit the children involved."

The third change is making funds available for family therapy. The courts are increasingly referring cases to family therapy as a possible means of resolving difficult family disputes.  It can be used to resolve the tensions between parties rather than increasing this tension through the court process. 

SLAB now views family therapy as a useful option to try to resolve disputes between parties without excessive intervention by the court.   Where a request for funding for family therapy is made they will require to be given information about the issues to be considered by the family therapist,  clarification on the likely cost of the therapy and its duration and details of the potential prospects for successfully undertaking therapy.  

The other streamlining changes include removing the need for separate legal aid applications for each child and changes to stage reporting. 

FNF Scotland welcomes these changes as we know that long delays can often make it more difficult to resume contact.  We agree that providing early support through therapy could be a lot more cost effective than a drawn-out adversarial court process and we know that although such services are not yet available throughout Scotland there is now a steady build up in provision.

We would be very interested to hear from parents and family lawyers about how these new procedures are working and welcome any other suggestions about how legal aid could be made more effective.

Monday
Jun202016

Shared Parenting: Better for Scotland's Children

In a report published simultaneously at Holyrood and Strasbourg FNF Scotland calls for a reformed Scottish family law to include shared parenting as its starting presumption rather than an outcome that has to be argued for often with great difficulty and at financial and emotional cost within the adversarial court system.

There is overwhelming evidence of the benefits to both parents and children of shared parenting from a broad range of studies and reports around the world. Children in shared parenting families have significantly better outcomes in terms of emotional, behavioural, and psychological well-being, as well as better physical health and better relationships with their father and their mother compared to those who are only brought up by one parent.

This report collates existing research into the benefits of shared parenting from other jurisdictions where there is already a framework in place, such as Sweden, Australia and the Netherlands.

It also includes information from 15 questionnaires and interviews with families in Scotland who have experienced shared parenting at first hand. One mother who shares parenting time equally with the children's father says:

“I think us being separated is fairer for the children and we are all so much happier. I also think it means the boys have good relationships with both parents, they love both of us and we both love them and we reinforce this everyday. I also have a really healthy life outside of the children so there is more balance for me and then for the kids as well. I have time for myself that I didn’t have before, or where I did have it before I would feel guilty for leaving them, but now I don’t have this. I’m also more resourced to commit to the parenting side of things when I am responsible.”

National Manager of FNF Scotland, Ian Maxwell, says, “We want children to have an equally significant relationship with both their mother and father and their respective extended families wherever possible. This means that the child will spend a considerable amount of time with each parent; that both parents will have equal weight in important decisions affecting the child and that both parents will be recognised equally by public agencies such as schools and doctors.

We believe a legislative commitment to the values of shared parenting would save the public purse in court time and legal aid funding (as well as the psychological drain on the parents and their children) of high octane disputes about controlling rather than sharing time. If the starting point for the parents is clear then the discussion becomes about practical arrangements.

Attitudes are already changing in Scotland as family life and economic realities have evolved in recent decades. This is part of the drive towards greater gender equality in Scotland. Parents should be able to collaborate in the interests of the children long after the sheriff has gone home and the solicitors have closed their files.”


As well as being sent to members of the Scottish Parliament,  the report is being highlighted at a side meeting of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.  The meeting follows up last October's Council resolution calling on member states to better recognise and positively value the role of fathers and do various things to support shared parenting for the benefit of children.

The FNF Scotland report also calls for :
* the “contact and residence” labels under the existing legislation to be removed and replaced with less value loaded terms, as has been done in England and Wales with “child arrangement orders”
* that parental rights and responsibilities should be retrospectively allowed for unmarried fathers.  The arbitrary date of May 6th 2006 enacted in the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 is still creating anomalies within families and unnecessary discrimination between unmarried fathers and unmarried mothers
* that mediation should be encouraged in order to shift away from the current adversarial approach of raising disputes in court.