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Friday
Nov022018

Shared Parenting: Benefits and Barriers

Professor Tommy MacKay gave a presentation at the 2018 FNFS AGM on Shared Parenting: Benefits and Barriers.

Tuesday
Oct162018

FNF Scotland comment on Dumfries false rape allegation case

In a judgement issued recently from Dumfries Sheriff court the sheriff concluded that a mother had made a false allegation of rape against a father in connection with a contact dispute (para 76).

Comment by FNF Scotland national manager, Ian Maxwell:

"This is a thorough analysis over 61 pages by Sheriff Mohan of the facts and circumstances of the events which led to the relationship between a father and his children being abruptly severed and fundamentally damaged.

While we understand that the mother in this case was suffering from severe depression, it is regrettable that her own family, friends and professional agencies saw their role as supporting  "her plan to leave with the children" and adding to it, rather than finding ways in which both parents and children could be supported to deal with her depression and other material stresses.

However, in the context of the current Scottish Government review of family law, this case illustrates the importance of early findings of fact where serious allegations are made by one parent against the other.  It also stresses the importance of objectively assessing the authenticity of the expressed views of children about contact with their parents after separation, especially where extremely hostile views have replaced a previously comfortable and affectionate relationship overnight. Sheriff Mohan questioned the credibility of the letters written by the children in this case.

This is not the first case where the intervention of a support agency has been found by a sheriff to have added to the sort of psychological and emotional damage on children that it was purporting to protect them from.

Sheriff Mohan has ordered that contact between the father and his extended family and his children be restored and we wish all of those involved well in recovering from the damage they have suffered.

Wednesday
Oct102018

AGM & Talk: Shared Parenting - benefits and barriers

The 2018 AGM of Families Need Fathers Scotland will be on the evening of Wednesday 31st October in Robertson House, 152 Bath Street, Glasgow.

Following the AGM we will have a talk by Professor Tommy MacKay about benefits and barriers to shared parenting.  Tickets for the event can be booked using this link.

professor MacKayProfessor Tommy MacKay will give an overview of current psychological research relating to contact and residence, focussing particularly on the benefits of shared parenting and some of the problems which are raised when shared parenting is proposed. 

Professor MacKay has worked extensively as a psychologist in a broad range of family law cases including contact and residence actions.  His 2014 publication "False Allegations of child abuse in contested family law cases" considered the high frequency of allegations of child physical or sexual abuse in cases of this kind, with a particular focus on false allegations.

Amongst the court cases in which he has given expert evidence is AH against CH (2016 CSOH 152).  In that judgement he stated that "evidence shows that children that do not have contact with both parents have, as a group, a greater propensity to experience difficulties academically, psychologically, emotionally and in future relationships in later life."  This supported the resumption of a father's contact with his son in spite of that child's resistance because of maternal influence.

Professor Tommy MacKay is Director of Psychology Consultancy Services, Co-Founder of the National Centre for Autism Studies at the University of Strathclyde, Clinical Director of the National Diagnosis and Assessment Service for Autistic Spectrum Disorders, a past President of the British Psychological Society, an Academician of the Academy for the Social Sciences and a Chartered Scientist. He works widely across several fields of psychology, having chartered or equivalent status in educational psychology, health psychology, clinical neuropsychology, psychotherapy and teaching and research in psychology.

Wednesday
Oct102018

Family law consultation submission

Families Need Fathers Scotland has submitted our response to the Scottish Government Consultation, alongside about 280 other submissions.

Amongst the main points we made were proposals for extending parental rights and responsibilities, creating a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting in Scottish law, family court cases to be conducted on an inquisitorial rather than an adversarial basis, compulsory mediation information and extended use of family mediation.

We also suggest that Scotland undertakes trials of the use of Parenting Co-ordinators to support families once an initial determination has been made in court or through mediation. These should be professionals coming from family law, mediation, family therapy or social work backgrounds, trained and experienced in all these areas so they can provide a more comprehensive and longer term service than Child Welfare Reporters, Curators or Safeguarders.

This type of work is now used extensively in the USA and other countries in order to assist, support and guide separating parents to work effectively after separation. Rather than the family courts having to make all minor decisions such as on pick-up details and holiday dates, the parenting co-ordinators are tasked by the court to do this work.

Parenting coordination is a hybrid ADR process used with high-conflict parents, and the PC wears many hats. The Association for Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) Task Force on Parenting Coordination (2006) defines parenting coordination as a child focused alternative dispute resolution process in which a mental health or legal professional with mediation training and experience assists high conflict parents to implement their parenting plan by facilitating the resolution of their disputes in a timely manner, educating parents about children's needs, and with prior approval of the parties and/or the court, making decisions within the scope of the court order or appointment contract (p. 165).

Although the American experience is very positive, we would suggest a fully evaluated pilot scheme is the best way to fully explore whether this approach will benefit children and parents and provide significant cost savings.

Tuesday
Aug212018

FNFS guide promoted in Government "Learning Together" strategy

The Scottish Government's newly published national action plan on parental involvement, parental engagement, family learning and learning at home 2018 - 2021 includes various commitments to improve engagement of fathers. 

The action plan was launched by Deputy First Minister John Swinney who said that it sets out a vision for parental engagement for the next three years and promises to "raise the bar yet higher", by supporting every parent and family on their "educational journey".

The Scottish Government will work with Fathers Network Scotland and Families Need Fathers Scotland to ensure that all key guidance and training materials relating to parental involvement and engagement are “father friendly”, fully reflect the role of dads, and reflect the principles of father-inclusive practice.

They will also work with local authority partners and parents to consider and address barriers which may prevent separated parents from being involved and engaged.  The Scottish Government will promote the Children In Scotland/Families Need Fathers Scotland  Helping Children Learn guidance on involving separated parents to all schools.

FNF Scotland national manager, Ian Maxwell, says, "We have worked hard over the years both to help separated parents build a productive relationship with their children's school and equally to convey to schools that separated parents are too often an untapped resource in support of their children's learning.

We are delighted that the Action Plan is so clear in its expectation that schools must become more parent friendly, more father friendly and more separated parent friendly. We will do whatever we can to assist in that process.

We will continue to raise with Mr Swinney and with CoSLA the imperative that the system of pupil enrolment forms must be overhauled. They should ensure the contact details of both parents are included and given equal status. The existing practice of giving only a limited list of 'entitlements' to non-resident parents should stop. The practice is not rooted in any educational benefit to the children and is fundamentally discriminatory."