Difficult relationships in family law
Sunday, April 29, 2012 at 9:09PM
FNF Scotland in bar reports, disclosure, false allegations, seminar

A Family Law Association seminar in Stirling last week highlighted a number of issues that face FNF Scotland in its awareness-raising work.  The title for the day was 'The Kids are Alright': Difficult relationships in Family Law. Several of the speakers concentrated principally on domestic abuse or violence but there was also evident awareness among members of the audience from their own caseload of occasions when unfounded allegations are used by a parent with care to undermine contact with the non resident parent.

Sheriff Davidson from Dundee made it clear both that he abhorred domestic violence but also false allegations. Answering a question from the floor he made clear, “anyone who makes a false allegation deserves to end up in gaol!”

He also raised a broader and more fundamental question for the audience to consider, about whether the current application of the criminal law within domestic conflict is “setting in motion a chain of events that is likely to end in the disruption of their (parents in conflict) relationship. … The criminal process can be truly destructive of family life.”

Child Psychologist Joe Nee explored the damage that can be done to children who experience abuse themselves but also who may witness conflict between the two people from whom they are most entitled to expect emotional and psychological protection.

Members at FNF Scotland group meetings regularly counsel new attendees of the importance of concentrating on the relationship they have with their children rather than the conflict they have with their former partner. Criticising the ex does none of the parties any good. However, Joe Nee put it very starkly saying, “If you are angry in the presence of your children they will assume you are angry at them.”

Advocate David Jack raised concern about the use of the term 'disclosure' referring to allegations made to some person by a child about physical or sexual abuse. He quoted at length from an unpublished judgement by Sheriff Nigel Morrison (covered in the Scotsman)  in which he spelled out that a disclosure is no more or less than an allegation that needs to be properly invistigated. However the term ''disclosure' has come to be misused, David Jack asserted, as somehow implying that is inevitably true.

FNF Scotland is certainly aware of child welfare reports that use the term, based on interviews by a bar reporter that do not comply with any of the elements of best practice but which are explicitly stated by the reporter to have influenced her/his recommendations about contact.

FNF Scotland endorses the view expressed most succinctly by Lady Hale in the UK Supreme Court in the case of Principal Reporter v K: “If decisions are then made on an inaccurate factual basis the child is doubly let down. Not only is the everyday course of her life altered but she may be led to believe bad things about an important person in her life. No child should be brought up to believe that she has been abused if in fact she has not, any more than any child should be persuaded by the adult world that she has not been abused when in fact she has.”

Article originally appeared on Families Need Fathers Scotland (http://www.fnfscotland.org.uk/).
See website for complete article licensing information.