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The Road and the Miles to Dundee

We have 8 people signed up to take part and raise funds for FNF Scotland in the Dundee Kiltwalk on August 19th.

Our team page if you would like to support us is here.

There's always room for more on the team so please get in touch if you'd like to join us on the day.


Family law consultation extended until September

The deadline for responses to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 has been extended until midnight on 28 September 2018.  This change has been made because many of the responding organisations were finding it difficult to meet the early August deadline because of the school holidays.  It had already been announced that some consultation with children and young people was going to take place later in August after the schools have resumed.

Families Need fathers Scotland is working on our response and we have already held well-attended meetings in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling and Paisley to discuss the issues.  Our response will be presented on our web site and we have already published a note of our main points.

Now that there is some more time, we repeat our appeal for parents to respond to the consultation so that your own experience can be heard.  When making a submission about your own case, be careful to avoid using names or other identifiable details.  You don't need to answer all 54 questions, just select the ones that are relevant to you.  Get writing.


Welcome improvement to cross-border judicial co-operation

Scottish Lord President Lord Carloway and outgoing head of the English Family Division Sir James Munby have launched a welcome initiative to improve cross border co-operation in family cases.

Their new judicial protocol will provide for the direct exchange of information between judges in intra-UK cross-border cases involving children. Liaison judges will be appointed in each country - the Scottish ones will be the two family judges Lord Brailsford and Lady Wise.  When legal proceedings are taking place in Scotland and England or Wales judges can communicate and exchange information via the liaison judges. 

While the detailed arrangements are mainly of interest to the judges who will make use of it, the preamble to the Protocol makes some interesting points:

  • Recognise that Scotland and England & Wales share a common commitment to the rule of law and to the principle that the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration when his or her needs or rights are considered by the courts;
  • Recognise that in cases involving children which have a cross-border element, judicial co-operation is of critical importance;
  • Consider that cross-border judicial co-operation should include the early identification of cases, clear lines of communication, the free flow of relevant information and the facilitation of effective case management;
  • Recognise that the removal of children from one country to another may have a harmful effect on such children;
  • Recognise that it is desirable that in the regulation of cross-border judicial communications as between Scotland and England & Wales the judiciary has regard to the Principles for Direct Judicial Communications as published by the Hague Conference on Private International Law;
  • Recognise the importance of negotiation, mediation and conciliation in the resolution of family disputes where appropriate; and
  • Recognise the value of ongoing cross-border judicial engagement in the preceding matters.
Alongside the Protocol a Handbook has been published giving short summaries of the law relating to children in Scotland, England and Wales.  The Scottish information about public and private law orders and procedure is written by Lynda Brabander QC.  This cross border guide provides a useful introduction to how things work in the three countries.
Families Need Fathers Scotland and our English and Welsh counterparts handle enquiries relating to cross border cases, and such information is long overdue.  We often find that the lawyers within one country have no understanding of how things work across the border.
We have been calling for a long time for better procedures for handling cross border cases within the UK, and while this Judicial move is a welcome improvement, we feel that a lot more needs to be done:
  • enforcement of court orders between countries is still cumbersome;
  • CAFCASS staff seem reluctant to come to Scotland when doing court reports, whereas child welfare reporters are more willing to travel to England
  • within the UK it would be desirable to have a clear understanding of which court deals with a cross-border case. At present it becomes a race to raise proceedings, whereas in international cases there are reasonably clear rules on which court should be acting;
While some of the above problems will be difficult to resolve, we suggest that a next step following on form this cross border initiative would be to clarify the procedure and cost of registering orders made in one country when they have to be implemented by a court elsewhere in the UK. 
We also look forward to the extension of this judicial protocol to the courts in Northern Ireland, given that they are operating under yet another set of laws and procedures.
We will raise these points in the current Scottish Government consultation and also write to the incoming President of the Family Division in England and Wales Sir Andrew McFarlane.

Family therapy still supported by legal aid

The Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) have stated that family therapy is a useful option for the courts to use in certain situations and should be encouraged for appropriate cases.  The costs of family therapy ordered by the courts have been met under grants of civil legal aid since June 2016 under Regulation 21 of the Civil Legal Aid (Scotland) Regulations 2002.

SLAB have recently carried out a required review of this use of civil legal aid and now say that it will continue to be available to meet the costs of family therapy.   Their full guidance on what is needed in any sanction application can be found in the Civil Handbook.

This guidance states that "Where therapy is ordered SLAB expects parties to engage fully with the process.  We would remind you that if a party who is getting legal aid does not comply with court orders or take part in work ordered by the court in a meaningful way then we look at whether their grant of legal aid should continue.  If your client does not comply fully with such an order you need to tell us about it."

FNF Scotland views this support of family therapy as a far more constructive approach to family conflict in court than continued adversarial proceedings. We look forward to more contact disputes being settled in this way.  We also hope that family therapy for child contact cases will become more widely available across Scotland.


International Shared Parenting Conference in Strasbourg

The fourth conference of the International Council on Shared Parenting is to be held in Strasbourg on November 22-23 this year at Palais de l'Europe.  Early bird booking is now open here.

The theme of this conference is: Shared Parenting, Social Justice and Children´s Rights.  The conference is organized under the auspices of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr. Thorbjørn Jaglandand supported by the City of Strasbourg, the University of Strasbourg and the Jardin des Sciences.

The conference intends to report how, within judicial systems and social work practices, both parents are recognized as vital in their children’s lives, even after separation and divorce. It will explore how shared parenting seems a means for keeping with the principles and articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Thus, a focus of the conference is to stress how shared parenting, viewed as in the best interests of children of separated parents, is a crucial issue for practitioners and policymakers around the globe, regarding the alignment of national law and practices with the articles of the UN CRC.

The conference is structured along four main questions.

  • What are the existing legal systems and the challenges regarding the legal presumption of shared parenting as a children’s right, in different countries?
  • What are the current trends and research outcomes regarding social attitudes and knowledge about shared parenting?
  • To what extent could shared parenting, gender equality and work-life balance be combined to improve health and wellbeing of children whose parents are separated?
  • How should national laws and international regulations be adapted for considering these social evolutions?

Speakers include:
⦁ Regina Jensdottir, Head of the Children´s Rights Division of the Council of Europe
⦁ Linos Alexandros Sicilianos (tbc), Judge, Professor of Law, Vice-president of the European Court of Human Rights, University of Athens – Greece
⦁ Jean Zermatten (tbc) President and Member of UN committee for Children’s rights (2005-2013), University of Geneva – Switzerland
⦁ Marie-France Carlier, Judge at Namur Family Court (division of the Namur and Dinant Family Court) – Belgium
⦁ Adeline Gouttenoire, Professor of Law, University of Bordeaux – France
⦁ Hildegund Sünderhauf, Professor for family law and youth welfare law, Lutheran University of applied sciences, Nuremberg – Germany
⦁ José Manuel de Torres Perea, Professor of Civil Law, University of Málaga – Spain
⦁ Lluis Flaquer, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University Autònoma de Barcelona – Spain
⦁ Livia Olah, Associate Professor, Ph.D., Dept. of Sociology, Stockholm University – Sweden
⦁ Gerardo Meil, Professor in Sociology, University Autónoma of Madrid – Spain
⦁ Malin Bergström, Centre for Health Equity Studies (CHESS), Stockholm University – Sweden
⦁ William Fabricius, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Arizona State University – USA
⦁ Michael Lamb, Professor of Psychology, University of Cambridge – United Kingdom
⦁ Blaise Pierrehumbert, PhD, former Privat-Docent in psychology, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
⦁ Derrick Gordon, Associate Professor of Psychiatry (Psychology Section), Ph.D., Yale University School of Medicine – USA
⦁ Christine Simon, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health - USA
⦁ Edward Kruk, Associate Professor of Social Work, ICSP/CIRA President, University of British Columbia – Canada
Papers will be presented from seventeen countries including Denmark, Norway, Finland, Germany, Slovakia, Portugal, Scotland,  Canada, Brazil, Kenya and Iran. Ian Maxwell from FNF Scotland will present a paper about our progress towards family law reform and shared parenting in Scotland.