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Thursday
Jul132017

New powers for lay representatives in Scottish courts

Scottish court rules have just been changed to enable lay representatives to do all the things a legal representative could do during a court hearing.  Lay representatives have been allowed to address the court on behalf of a person who is not legally represented (party litigant) since previous rule changeS in 2012 (Court of Session) and 2013 (Sheriff Court).  They are now allowed to conduct all aspects of the case including examination and cross examination, as long as the sheriff or judge is satisfied that this will be "in the interests of justice".

A lay representative in the Sheriff Court has to present a form 1A.2 with various declarations on the date of first hearing, whereas in the Court of Session a lay representative has to submit a motion accompanied by a form 12b.2 with declarations. 

Lay representatives are not allowed receive any remuneration for their work, unlike Mckenzie Friends in Northern Ireland who are allowed to be paid fees by litigants  "for the provision of reasonable assistance in court or out of court by, for instance, carrying out clerical or mechanical activities, such as photocopying documents, preparing bundles, delivering documents to opposing parties or the court, or the provision of legal advice in connection with court proceedings. Such fees cannot be lawfully recovered from the opposing party." (NI Court Practice Note)

This recent Scottish rule change means that lay representatives have far wider powers to address the court than Mckenzie Friends in courts in other parts of the UK. 

Sunday
Jul092017

Launch of new Shared Parenting website by FNF Scotland

Families Need Fathers Scotland has launched www.sharedparenting.info, a new information and discussion website raising awareness about the benefits of sharing the care of children after parents separate.

The new site offers:

  • Summaries of the academic research into shared parenting

  • Legislation and case law concerning shared parenting in Scotland and around the world

  • Stories of Scottish families who already share parenting

  • Information, experience and advice for making shared parenting work

  • Considerations for when shared parenting may be more difficult

FNF Scotland hopes the website will support its case for prioritising shared parenting during the review of Scots family law which is expected to happen in 2018.

FNF Scotland national manager, Ian Maxwell says, “The realities of family life in Scotland have transformed in recent decades for a host of political, social, cultural and economic reasons. As more mothers are active in the workplace so parenting roles at home have evolved. Parents expect more of each other and children expect more of both.

Yet in Scotland when a relationship breaks down old paradigms slip back into place with a presumption of one 'main' parent and a ‘visitor’. While lip service is paid to encouraging parents to negotiate suitable arrangements for caring for their children after separation everyone knows that if they don't agree the failsafe position will revert to the adversarial approach by which one parent wins time with his/her children by criticising the other.

In addition the system of child benefit and child support creates a financial disincentive to the current 'main' parent to share parenting even if s/he accepts that the children would benefit from spending more time with the other.

FNF Scotland's starting point is to explore what arrangements can be put in place for the long term benefits of the children. Research from around the world shows that in general children benefit in most areas of their emotional and psychological wellbeing when they spend as near as possible to equal time with both their parents and when they can see both parents are given equal status and respect by professionals and politicians.

Shared parenting also liberates both parents from gender stereotypes.

There isn't a switch that can be flicked to change attitudes overnight but we are looking forward to next year's review of Scottish family law. Our launch of www.sharedparenting.info is intended to share peer reviewed research and personal experience of what can be achieved for our children with a different approach to parenting after separation.”

www.sharedparenting.info and its content has been designed, written and constructed by Isabelle Introna, a student from the University of Edinburgh on the EmployEd Third Sector Internship Scheme.

Sunday
Jul092017

England and Wales family courts pilot for 'settlement conferences'.

President of the Family Division in England and Wales, Sir James Munby, has given the green light to a number of family courts to pilot 'settlement conferences'.

The aim is to discover whether pursuing a less adversarial approach to resolving disputes between separated parents might lead to better outcomes for the children involved.

In a statement released by the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, Sir James said, "Some Designated Family Judge (DFJ) areas are piloting settlement conferences. In a settlement conference, a trained family judge adopts an inquisitorial approach in order to encourage cooperation between parties with a view to reaching an agreement that is in the children’s best interests. I know that opinions on settlement conferences are divided but, in my view, it is an approach that is worth piloting in order to inform decisions on whether to take them further."

The pilot is supported by a package of training and guidance materials that Sir James urges judges to view before taking part in the pilot. The package includes videos, sample cases and practice directions.

FNF Scotland National Manager, Ian Maxwell, said, "We'll be watching the pilot and any subsequent evaluation very carefully. We have been saying for a long time that the adversarial procedures in Scottish family cases - including the pre court correspondence between solicitors - often create new conflicts between parents. It can make it more difficult for parents to co-operate in the interests of their children after the case is closed if the process itself has encouraged them to attack each other's character and parenting abilities."

Sunday
Jul022017

IronMan pair raise funds for FNF Scotland

Looking remarkably fresh after their 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and 13.1 mile run, Lisa and Mark successfully completed the IronMan Edinburgh Triathlon on July 2nd in 6:47:31 and 5:51:25 respectively.

Their efforts have already raised hundreds of pounds for FNF Scotland, but there's still time to add to the total - use this link to donate and support our helpline service.  FNF Scotland staff and cvlunteers responded to over 3,000 enquiries in the past year - all funds raised go towards maintaining this service.  If you want to undetake a sponsored event in aid of FNF Scotland please contact Ian Maxwell.


Tuesday
Jun132017

Shared Parenting interviewees wanted

FNF Scotland has appointed a student intern, Isabelle Introna, to collect and compile information about the benefits of shared parenting for a new FNF Scotland website. Shared Parenting is when both parents are actively involved in all aspects of their children’s lives and share meaningful parenting responsibility. The new site will offer:
•    A summary of the academic research that has been conducted on shared parenting
•    Details on the law around shared parenting across the globe
•    Stories and advice from families who share parenting
•    A forum that will give parents the opportunity to discuss their own experiences
This work follows on from FNF Scotland’s 2016 report into shared parenting by continuing to promote shared parenting and help those who are trying to achieve it.
Isabelle will be carrying out interviews with parents to find out how they made shared parenting work and what problems were faced along the way, as well as what advice can be passed on. If you would be interested in becoming involved in this project email her for further details or ring the Edinburgh office on 0131 557 2440.

Her four week internship is arranged through the Edinburgh University Employ.ed third sector scheme, supported by Santander.  The web site will be launched in early July - watch this space.