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Monday
Aug282017

Tribunal clarifies how shared care is decided in maintenance disputes

A recent Upper-tier Tribunal decision has clarified the position in child maintenance cases where both parents have equal amounts of child care.

The father in this case had been assessed by the Child Maintenance Service to pay weekly maintenance  because he cared for his child for 175 mights or more, even although there was an agreement that care should shared equally. The First Tier Tribunal agreed with this and also decided that because there were a number of nights when the child was in the father's care but did not stay at the father's address, this reduced his care to 172 nights, which meant it fell below the 175 nights threshold that would have halfed the maintenance liability.

The Upper Tribunal ruled that both aspects of this decision were wrong. The First Tier Tribunal had became unduly preoccupied with care proveded "overnight" as opposed to the "sharing of day-to-day care". In doing this it had failed to apply regulation 50 of the 2012 regulations, which sets the parameters for determining whether a parent is considered to be sharing care or is deemed to be non-resident and therefore liable to pay maintenance. 

Although regulations 46 and 47 relate to calculating the number of overnights in cases where care is not shared, the Upper Tribunal ruled that they should only be applied if the parent is being considered as non-resident under regulation 50.  In this case the agreement or court order for shared care meant that overnights didn't need to be calculated. Overnight care is not a trump card but is one factor to beconsidered along with others.

The Tribunal judge also commented that for overnight care to count it is a requirement that the child stays at the same address as the non-resident parent, but that need not be restricted to that parent's usual address.

Saturday
Aug262017

Crowdfunder appeal for Guide to Contact Centres

FNF Scotland has launched a crowdfunding appeal to allow us to compile a complete ‘user guide’ to the services, facilities, rules and costs of Scotland’s contact centres. The donations page is at:  

Contact centres play an important role as stepping stones in restoring the relationship between children and a separated parent.

Despite their crucial importance to hundreds of families each year - sheriffs in the family courts will specify that a certain number of contact centre sessions should take place before the case comes back to court - the centres are run by several different organisations with different rules about issues that are important to the parents who use them. Some ban the taking of photographs of your children, others will take them for you.

There is also often confusion among parents about whether the centre staff will be making a report about how the contact goes (supervised contact) or simply providing a space for the contact (supported contact) or just facilitating the ‘handover’ for agreed or court ordered contact. Sometimes the centre represents a safe space for the child to have contact with a non-resident parent or for a mother to do the ‘handover’. Sometimes it is a safe place for the non-resident father to see his children without risk of being ambushed by a hostile mother or other family members.

FNF Scotland national manager, Ian Maxwell, says, "We are looking for funding to compile a complete ‘user guide’ to the services, facilities, rules and costs of Scotland’s contact centres. We are launching a separate appeal due to the number of questions that are coming up at our monthly meetings or in phone contacts.

In recent years we have published a number of free ‘user guides’, providing legal and practical information on important subjects that affect separated families such as Child Welfare Reporters and rights to information from schools. These reports are all freely downloadable from our website at www.fnfscotland.org.uk.

Our experience is that more and better information reduces conflict and improves relationships between individuals and the organisations and agencies they are likely to encounter and increases the chances they will work better together."

Please support the appeal at  

Sunday
Jul302017

Two Fringe shows to look out for

FNF Scotland recommends two shows at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe that cast a wry eye on two of the most common issues in our case work - parental alienation and long distance parenting. 

The Way It Is  is "a funny, entertaining, challenging, shocking, moving journey into the hearts of darkness world of parental alienation".

Written and directed by John Casey this will be the Fringe debut of  11:87 Theatre Company.

There will be a benefit performance of The Way It Is for FNF Scotland at 10 Palmerston Place on Tuesday Aug 15th at 7pm. Book your tickets here.

Full details of the production's Fringe performances at theSpace on the Mile, 80 High Street from 14th to 19th August are here

The Unaccompanied Minor is a one man show, written and performed by Elan Zafir.  "A comedy about being the rock in your son's life – when you were the paper plane in your dad's".  As anyone who has had to arrange long-distance contact trips for their child will know, the title refers to the service offered by airlines.

Elan will perform the show for FNF Scotland in Glasgow on Wednesday 23rd August with a discussion afterwards - book your tickets here.

Full details of the production's Fringe performances from 4th August at the Space@Surgeons Hall are here.

Thanks to both shows for providing us with benefit performances - give them your suppport..

 

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.