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Another consultation: Case management of court actions

The Scottish Civil Justice Council has launched a public consultation on the case management of family and civil partnership actions in the sheriff court. The consultation will run until 22 August 2018 and is likely to be followed by changes in court rules.

The Council’s Family Law Committee is considering ways to improve how family actions are dealt with in the sheriff court, particularly in order to prevent undue delay in proceedings relating to the welfare of children.

Having commissioned research into the effectiveness of Chapter 33AA of the Ordinary Cause Rules 1993 and considered a policy paper on case management by the Scottish Government, the Committee established a sub-committee in May 2017 to consider changes to court rules.

The sub-committee made a number of recommendations, including:

  • a new case management structure for all family and civil partnership actions in the sheriff court, not just those with a crave for an order under section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995;
  • allocating actions to a “fast track” or “proof track” procedure, as appropriate;
  • greater judicial control over the sisting (i.e. ‘pausing’ or staying) of family and civil partnership actions;
  • the adoption of abbreviated pleadings and more detailed witness lists;
  • judicial continuity insofar as possible;
  • provision allowing all family and civil partnership actions to be referred to mediation; and
  • greater judicial control over the use of expert witnesses.

This consultation is separate from the current Scottish Government consultation and covers issues which are the responsibility of the courts.  Ian Maxwell from Families Need Fathers Scotland was a member of the sub-committee which drew up these proposals. 

As National Manager of FNF Scotland, he comments: "Between these two consultations there is scope for making major improvements to the way family actions are dealt with both in court and outside.  We always advise parents to try their best to avoid court action, but if it does have to happen the court needs to deal with cases quickly and decisively.  Long-drawn out court proceedings and adversarial processes can cause major harm to children and parents and we look forward to any changes which can avoid that happening."

"We encourage everybody to add their views to these two consultations."


FNF Scotland to host focus groups across Scotland on Scottish Government plans to reform family law

Families Need Fathers Scotland groups will host four focus groups across Scotland during June and July in connection with the Scottish Government review of family law in Scotland.

The Scottish Government has launched a public consultation on the law that governs the arrangements for sharing care of children when their parents separate and other aspects of family law. 

During the consultation period the civil servants conducting the review will attend FNF Scotland group meetings in Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh and a special meeting in Glasgow to get insight into the personal, financial and relationship costs of the current system from people who have experience of it and hear their suggestions for changes.

They will attend regular monthly meetings in Dundee on Wednesday June 20th, Aberdeen on Thursday June 21st, Edinburgh on Monday July 2nd and a special meeting in Glasgow on Wednesday June 27th.

To help plan for numbers we are asking for attendees to register in advance at the following links:

Dundee: http://gldn.gg/e/Dundee_consultation
Aberdeen: http://gldn.gg/e/Aberdeen_consultation
Glasgow: http://gldn.gg/e/familylawconsultation 
Edinburgh: http://gldn.gg/e/Edinburgh_consultation

FNF Scotland National Manager, Ian Maxwell, says,"We are delighted that the Scottish Government will be using our regular meetings as 'focus groups'. The majority of attendees at our monthly groups are separated fathers but we also have a regular presence of mothers, grandparents, new partners and aunts and uncles."

"Most are shocked by how bruising, slow and expensive it is to go to court and how difficult it is to enforce a court order one made - and above all how the process can put intolerable stress on the children involved when their parents are belittling and undermining each other. The vast majority of research as well as common sense indicates that children do better in most areas of their lives when both parents are meaningfully involved in their lives."

Details of the FNF Scotland response to the consultation will appear on this web site soon.  The consultation can be viewed here and responses are due in by August 7th.


Napier University student’s ‘Time for Change’ animation captures the case for overhaul of Scottish family law.

An Edinburgh Napier University student has created an animation on the feelings of loss experienced by separated fathers struggling to maintain an meaningful parenting relationship with their children as his final year honours BSC Digital Media project.

Lewis Rickard, a 22 year old student from Falkirk, created the infographic combining the words of a poem* by award winning author, Louis de Bernières, with data on the work of FNF Scotland to find out how far animation might be an effective platform for sharing key concepts for non profit organisations.

You can view the animation here:  https://tinyurl.com/TFC-FNFS

Lewis  has been studying Digital Media at Napier for the last two years following on from his  HND in Digital Media at City of Glasgow College in the two preceding years..

Lewis says, "The issue of parental rights has been close to my heart for many years.  I have watched my brother fight tirelessly through the courts to secure a relationship with his son. It has been very slow and very expensive. Most people who don't have first hand knowledge of the process through someone close to them don't appreciate how painful it is. This gave me inspiration to create an animation that could be understood easily by both separated parents, and also by children.

I contacted FNF last year and attended one of their group meetings so I could gain an understanding of what other dads and mothers were going through in terms of not being able to see their children – either not seeing them at all or restricted to every other weekend effectively as a visitor, not a parent.  This was a great experience for me and allowed me to get a deeper insight into how the charity works. It also gave me the chance to ask questions to the parents so I could try to understand what each person is going through.

FNF have been excellent in helping me create the animation. They have given me lots of information that I simply wouldn’t have been able to get if I was creating the animation by myself. Their help has been incredible and I feel that the animation has benefitted from the help I received from them."

Ian Maxwell, national manager of FNF Scotland, says, " We are very impressed by the animation Lewis has created. There is a Scottish Government consultation underway at the moment on reforming the law on making arrangements for the involvement of parents with their children after separation. This is a 'once in a generation' opportunity to persuade the government to bring in a system that doesn't set parents against each other but steers them towards putting their children first. We need to win hearts among the public as well as minds and Lewis's animation brilliantly captures the feelings of loss and helplessness many separated parents feel. We are very grateful to him for thinking of us."

After graduation Lewis hopes to get a job in the creative industries, such as graphic design or motion design. Lewis says, "I have just began to apply for jobs so hopefully this project will help me on the road and also help FNF Scotland connect with a wider audience. Thanks for watching."

* The Deserted men (Every Other Weekend) by Louis de Bernières


Review of Scottish family law launched

The Scottish Government has launched a public consultation on the Review of Part 1 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and related matters.

FNF Scotland has been pressing for such a review to address the spectrum of issues that arise at our monthly meetings or are raised by individuals who get in contact. We will make our overall submission to the review settng out the direction we would like the reform of family law to take. 

In the coming weeks we will publish on this website our position on specific issues such as alternatives to the present adversarial basis of child contact/residence actions, alternatives to court, enforcement of orders and reliable approaches to securing the views of children involved.

The civil servants who are conducting the consultation will be coming to several FNF group meetings in the next few weeks to get insight into the personal, financial and relationship costs of the current approach to maintaining a meaningful parenting relationship for both parents after separation. We will also have a separate evening meeting in Glasgow on June 27th to discuss the consultation - use this link to book tickets.

FNF Scotland National Manager, Ian Maxwell, says, "We have been pressing the case for a comprehensive review for several years. The moment has come and we look forward to an overhaul of Scottish family law that will bring the legislation in line with life as it is lived in modern Scotland."

"We believe a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting after separation will help the individuals involved draw up arrangements that genuinely put the interests of their children first. There are too many incentives in the 'winner takes all' approach of the current system that promote character attacks on each parent by the other which damage relationships long after their court case is over and the sheriff has gone home. "

The consultation is available at the link below:
There is also a series of child friendly questions which are available at:

International Parental Alienation Awareness Day

This poster has been produced to mark this date by organisations from a wide range of countries - from Argentina to Iceland.  Click on the thumbnail image to see them all.

This joint action shows that there is growing understanding of Parental Alienation (PA) and what can be done to counter it, but there is still a long way to go. 

In Scotland we need more family therapists and child psychologists to be prepared and trained work with the children and parents affected by PA and other aspects of children resisting contact, and also far wider understanding amongst social workers, teachers, health professionals and family lawyers and sheriffs. 

The aim would be to provide appropriate support to families as soon as possible, and for the court system to act swiftly and firmly when contact is interrupted.  The imminent consultation on family law reform in Scotland will be an opportunity to consider this issue, but we don't need to wait for law reform to bring about changes which will prevent children from losing contact with one of their parents.

Families Need Fathers Scotland will continue to raise this issue whenever possible and help build up awareness in Scotland.  Here are links to posts from Richard Warshak and Nick Child that also mark PA Awareness Day.

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