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Thursday
Dec012016

Holyrood event hears how shared parenting works in Sweden

40% of separated families in Sweden share the care of their children equally, and there are significant benefits for children and young people from this sharing of parental care.

At an event at the Holyrood Parliament to celebrate five years of Families Need Fathers Scotland as a registered charity, heads of children's and family organisations, family lawyers, civil servants, parents and MSPs heard about Dr Malin Bergström's research work on shared care in Sweden.

She described how the Swedish 'Viking Father' is nowadays more likely to be holding a baby than a weapon. The reasons for this include comprehensive parental leave provision for fathers and mothers since 1974, a family law change supporting shared parenting as the default option in 1998 and widespread public daycare. 

Working at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, Dr Bergström is studying well-being, mental health and social situation in school aged children and preschoolers in shared parenting arrangements.  Over a wide range of measures the performance of children in 50:50 shared care is very close to that of children in intact nuclear families, and significantly better than those in families where one parent has the majority or sole care of the children.

Families Need Fathers Scotland used this event to press the case it is making for changes in Scottish family law, family court processes and family dispute resolution outside courts that would support shared parenting as the best option for children after separation.  National Manager Ian Maxwell stated that this will be a key priority for the organisation over the next five years, and thanked the event's host, John Mason MSP, and other MSPs who attended the event or who have met us to hear why we are seeking to modernise Scottish family law.

Ross Thomson MSP has now asked a Parliamentary question about the Scottish government's action to promote a greater recognition of the benefits of shared parenting.

This has been answered by Justice Minister Annabelle Ewing,  stating the government's intention to: "review the law in this area - the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 - to ensure the interests of children and their need to form and maintain relationships with key adults in their lives – parents, step-parents, grandparents and other family members – are at the heart of any new statutory measures."

Thursday
Dec012016

Louis de Bernières shares the parenting

In a booklet published by FNF Scotland as background to our Holyrood event, an interview with celebrated author Louis de Bernières describes his experience of a traumatic family separation followed by a return to equal shared care of his children.

Commenting on what could happen if family law is reviewed, he urges legislators to: "Firstly take account of the social and economic change that has happened. Secondly pay attention to the research.  If the research is telling you that children do better when they have a full relationship with both parents, then help them get it. Thirdly, I'd like legislation to start from a default position of equality between the parents.  That will be tailored to suit the practicalities from the child's point of view. It can't be rigid. That would never work. But if you don't have some target like that you will always fall short."

He also comments on whether having two homes is disruptive to his children: "It's not remotely disruptive if their daytime activity – going to school – is the same and as long as a parent isn't trying to alienate the kids from the other one. The level of complaint I get is that something terribly important has been left at the other house.  So you go and get it.  What's the problem?"

The booklet also presents some of our proposals for changes to family law, courts and other family support measures, along with a note about research evidence from around the world reporting the benefits to children and parents of sharing parenting after separation.

Tuesday
Nov222016

Families Need Fathers Scotland 2016 AGM

The Annual General Meeting of the FNF Scotland charity will be held on Thursday 8th December at Robertson House, 152 Bath Street, Glasgow G2 4TB from 7-9pm.

As well as receiving reports on the charity's activity during the past year, there will be news of our campaigning to change family law and encourage shared parenting and other developments such as the training for lay assistants and our "Children Resisting Contact" training events.  We will also highlight progress in developing our supporter scheme and an online forum to discuss contact and parenting issues.

There will also be a presentation from Anne O'Donnell of St Patrick's RC Primary in Denny, near Falkirk.  We have invited her to talk about the school's work to involve fathers and other parental involvement activity.  They hold Boys Nights where boys and their male parents or carers come into the school and spend the evening doing various activities ranging from literacy games to outdoor learning. 

We are keen to celebrate good examples of how fathers can be involved in school and will also talk about what FNF Scotland has been doing to encourage schools to involve separated fathers.
Attendance at the AGM is free but we welcome donations - sign up here to attend.

Thursday
Nov172016

Pupil registration forms need to include both parents

FNF Scotland has submitted its evidence to the Review of the Effectiveness of the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 currently being carried out by National Parent Forum Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government.

The Review will examine the whole of the Act which replaced the old school boards with parent councils and changed a range of arrangements about parental involvement whole in school management.

Our submission focuses on the effectiveness of the part of the Act that required schools to engage equally with both parents if they live separately.  Our experience is that at an individual level schools are welcoming enough but the relationship is largely driven by the non-resident parent - making himself known and allaying any suspicions that there may be about him.

We suggest that the annual pupil registration forms should have a clear space for contact details of the non-resident parent and that these forms and other information need to reach both separated parents.

Involvement has to mean involvement. It is not achieved by giving one parent a stream of communication but the other only a trickle. Schools should ask the non-resident parent how s/he would prefer to receive such information and provide it.

We are currently gathering and reviewing pupil information forms from all Scottish local authorities

Thursday
Nov172016

Cross border contact issues raised at Holyrood

Concerns about the issues that arise when separated or separating parents move between the jurisdictions of the United Kingdom were raised during questions to the Justice Minister in Holyrood yesterday (November 16th 2016). 

 

Kate Forbes (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP) asked Annabelle Ewing "What support the Scottish Government can provide to people from Scotland who are engaged in legal proceedings in jurisdictions outside Scotland.

 

The Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs (Annabelle Ewing): It is for individuals themselves to raise and defend legal proceedings in other jurisdictions.  In international parental child abduction and child maintenance cases, support is available from the Scottish Government’s central authority team.

Kate Forbes: Engaging in legal proceedings around divorce and custody in another jurisdiction in the United Kingdom can be challenging, especially emotionally and financially, and can cause significant damage to relationships between children and both parents.  How can the Scottish Government better assist parents who are dealing with child contact and residence orders between and across jurisdictions?

Annabelle Ewing: I acknowledge the considerable stress that is caused in cross-border cases, including cases across the UK jurisdictions.  The Scottish Government cannot provide direct assistance to parents who are dealing with child contact and residence cases in other jurisdictions in the UK.  However, we provide financial support to a number of family support organisations, including Families Need Fathers. In addition, we intend to produce a guidance circular for legal practitioners and others in Scotland on the existing provisions that govern the area in the Family Law Act 1986, which applies across the UK and applies to cross-jurisdiction family actions.  We will also continue discussions with our opposite numbers in the UK Ministry of Justice and the Northern Ireland Executive. For example, we have suggested that the relevant form that is used in family cases south of the border could be amended to ask the applicant whether there is a potential Scottish or Northern Irish dimension to the case.  I understand that the Ministry of Justice is amenable to that proposal.

FNF Scotland national manager, Ian Maxwell, commented:
"We are grateful to Kate Forbes for raising this important matter and look forward to this guidance becoming available.  Where there are problems of raising or enforcing contact or residence proceedings across international boundaries there are remedies within the Hague Convention.  But we are regularly approached for advice where one parent takes children from one part of the United Kingdom to another, even when there is a contact order in place.  There ought to be simple, speedy and inexpensive procedures available between the UK jurisdictions but our experience is rather different.  Relationships can be damaged or lost during the time the cases work their way through court and, as so often, the cost can be crippling."