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Wednesday
May172017

Parenting Apart continues

Parenting Apart information/education sessions are for parents who are going through the process of separation or divorce, or are in dispute over contact arrangements.  They help parents to understand about the process of separation and divorce, what their children need from them when they are living apart and how to work together and put their children’s needs first.  They are a one off session of three hours run on a group or one to one basis.  Ex-partners attend different sessions.  Parenting Apart is currently free due to funding from the Scottish Government. 
 
Evidence from an independent review of Parenting Apart, conducted by SMCI Associates, shows that parents negotiate more effectively after participating in Parenting Apart.  They make more effective use of the support that family lawyers and other professionals can provide.  Of those parents who were seeking a court order before the session, 54% were no longer seeking a court order at the follow up review stage 3 months later.  The percentage of parents satisfied with the current arrangements for their children had risen from 15% before attending Parenting Apart to 41% three months after participating.

Over 700 parents have participated in Parenting Apart since the sessions were made available across Scotland 2 years ago.  The sessions are delivered by specifically trained Parenting Apart facilitators who come from mediation, counselling and family support worker backgrounds.  They offer a wealth of experience, skills and perspectives to parents who participate.  By offering these sessions within Relationships Scotland Member Services parents are able to find out about and access other services and further support.  One of the findings from the sessions is that parents who attend move on from using child contact centres more quickly.

The feedback from parents is overwhelmingly positive and encouraging.  For example:   

‘It was good learning how kids deal with situations instead of just presuming they don't have emotions.’

‘I have come away with a better understanding of how to deal with situations between my ex and I and also situations I may find myself in with children.’

One parent said this at the follow up review stage 3 to 6 months after participating:  

‘It was very helpful to come to the session and hear about other people's experiences. The materials helped, both the pack for parents and the one for children, which my son read and really took on board, to the degree that he would not allow any negative mentions of the other parent.’

Parenting Apart is offered from most Relationships Scotland Family Mediation Services.


Tuesday
May092017

24 MSPs support Parental Alienation Awareness motion

The motion tabled at the Scottish Parliament by John Mason MSP to mark International Parental Alienation Awareness Day at the end of April has now been signed by 24 other MSPs as noted below. 

The day was also marked by a press release issued across Europe by the Platform for European Fathers, and a Good Parenting ‘quiz’ issued by FNF to help raise the awareness of the blight that parental alienation can impose on the relationship between children and a once much loved parent.  

International Parental Alienation Awareness Day 

That the Parliament notes that 25 April marks International Parental Alienation Awareness Day; notes that, in over 30 countries, the day aims to highlight the damaging impact that such alienation, when one parent influences a child to reject the other parent following separation, can have on families; believes that, as this can sometimes happen unintentionally, highlighting the signs of alienation are key; understands that the side effects of such alienation can include an increased risk to the mental health of the children and family members who lose access; considers that, where possible, allowing both parents to be involved in the life of a child following separation leads to the best outcome, and hopes that the awareness day will help increase awareness of the benefits that healthy relationships between separated parents can bring.

Supported by: James Dornan, Gillian Martin, Ivan McKee, David Torrance, Sandra White, Ash Denham, Colin Beattie, Bill Kidd, Jeremy Balfour, Fulton MacGregor, Ben Macpherson, Clare Haughey, Jenny Gilruth, Kate Forbes, Maree Todd, Gil Paterson, David Stewart, Tom Arthur, Bob Doris, Gordon Lindhurst, Daniel Johnson, Stuart McMillan, Donald Cameron

Monday
May012017

Domestic Abuse bill could help non-resident parents experiencing 'coercive control'

Families Need Fathers Scotland has submitted its observations  to the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee consultation on the Scottish Government's draft Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill which aims to introduce a new domestic abuse criminal offence of 'coercive control'.

From the perspective of the individuals who ask for our help FNF Scotland gives a qualified welcome to the Bill's proposal to create "a new offence of abusive behaviour towards a person’s partner or ex-partner covering both physical violence and non-physical abuse."

We have drawn the Justice Committee's attention to examples of coercive control exerted over a non-resident parent by the parent with most care. These range from the constructed ambush at handover to the persistent and pervasive controlling of the life of the non-resident parent.  We have listed the following examples from within cases raised with us:

  • Refusing to communicate at all
  • Refusing to communicate unless through (an expensive) solicitor
  • Delaying decisions on arrangements such as holiday dates until the last minute
  • Changing contact arrangements at the last minute without reason or explanation
  • Constantly being late for agreed or court ordered contact
  • Taking children away from school on holiday without notice or agreement
  • Refusing to engage with the non-resident parent on key decisions such as school placements
  • Instructing health providers not to engage with the non-resident parent
  • Demanding “cash for contact”
  • Demanding to know every detail of what the child does when with the non-resident parent in way they would refuse to reciprocate
  • Hiding a tracking or listening device in the clothes or toys of a child when the child is having contact with the other parent
  • Criticising the other parent’s parenting skills
  • Criticising and undermining the other parent in front of their children
  • Criticising the other parent’s choices of clothes or food while the child is with them
  • Demanding the right to withhold contact from a new partner
  • Making unfounded allegations about a range of matters both trivial and potentially criminal to friends, neighbours, family members directly and on social media aimed at isolating and undermining the character of the non-resident parent
  • Making unfounded allegations about a range of matters both trivial and potentially criminal to professionals putting the non-resident parent in the position that he is under constant pressure to prove his worth as a parent.

We reluctantly accept that there is at present a role for the criminal law to help tackle the kind of abusive conduct of ex-partners as outlined above.  In these circumstances we urge that there should be flexibility of sentencing options available to the sheriff or judge to include community disposals as alternatives to imprisonment and/or fines. The aim of sentencing should reflect the seriousness with which the court sees the offence but without inflicting further damage on the victim. We already hear from sheriffs in contempt cases that they don’t want the parent offended against to get the blame in the eyes of the children for “sending the other parent to gaol.”

FNF Scotland National Manager, Ian Maxwell, says: "At present non-resident parents experiencing coercive control feel unprotected by the law. If they report it to police they are told 'There's nothing we can do. It's a civil matter'. Or if there is a court order in place the only option is the slow, unpredictable and expensive route of raising a contempt of court action.

Our preference is for a broader overhaul of family law in Scotland that will give equality of recognition in public policy to the role both parents can play in the lives of their children. Scotland needs to move on from the prevailing acceptance of the adversarial approach in which parents ‘win time’ with their children from each other.

Until then, however, we believe the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill may be of use to a substantial number of the parents who ask for our help.

For the sake of clarity, we are focussing on the issues that affect non-resident parents because that is where we have first-hand knowledge and insight. That should not be taken as indifference to others whose experience of coercive control is covered by the Bill."

As the Bill proceeds through Parliament we will report on progress.

Tuesday
Apr252017

Scottish Parliament marks Parental Alienation Awareness Day

A motion tabled by John Mason MSP has already been signed by 18 other MSPs as noted below. 

The day has also been marked by a press release issued across Europe by the Platform for European Fathers, and a Good Parenting ‘quiz’ issued by FNF to help raise the awareness of this terrible problem and the types of unacceptable behaviour that lead to children being alienated against formerly much loved parents.  

"International Parental Alienation Awareness Day  

That the Parliament notes that 25 April marks International Parental Alienation Awareness Day; notes that, in over 30 countries, the day aims to highlight the damaging impact that such alienation, when one parent influences a child to reject the other parent following separation, can have on families; believes that, as this can sometimes happen unintentionally, highlighting the signs of alienation are key; understands that the side effects of such alienation can include an increased risk to the mental health of the children and family members who lose access; considers that, where possible, allowing both parents to be involved in the life of a child following separation leads to the best outcome, and hopes that the awareness day will help increase awareness of the benefits that healthy relationships between separated parents can bring."

Supported by: James Dornan, Gillian Martin, Ivan McKee, David Torrance, Sandra White, Ash Denham, Colin Beattie, Bill Kidd, Jeremy Balfour, Fulton MacGregor, Ben Macpherson, Clare Haughey, Jenny Gilruth, Kate Forbes, Maree Todd, Gil Paterson, David Stewart, Tom Arthur

Monday
Apr242017

Launch of Parental Alienation funding appeal

Families Need Fathers Scotland is launching a funding appeal to mark International Parental Alienation Awareness day on 25th April 2017.

Parental alienation, where a child rejects a previously loved father or mother due to undue influence from or loyalty to the other parent, is being increasingly recognised in Scotland.  Some sheriffs are making orders for family therapy to help rebuild the relationship between children and their alienated parent. Child welfare reporters should soon be receiving specific training on parental alienation as part of their preparation for carrying out reports for family courts.

But this awareness is only just beginning to spread. Family solicitors and advocates often acknowledge that there is deliberate or unconscious alienation in some of their cases but can’t see a way forward.

There are very few family therapists and child psychiatrists in Scotland with knowledge and understanding of parental alienation. Even when sheriffs would like to order some sort of intervention to undo the damage that alienation is doing to a child they encounter the shortage of professionals able to work with the family members involved.

Families Need Fathers Scotland has been helping fathers and mothers who are affected by parental alienation. We provide information and support and have organised training sessions conducted by leading specialists in this area such as Karen Woodall, Dr Kirk Weir and Dr Sue Whitcombe.  We have also supported individual parents with their court case, such as the father in AH v CH, and we have followed instances where alienated children have been successfully reintroduced to their parent.

This funding appeal is being made so that we can establish a separate fund to support family intervention where significant progress has been made but funding has run out before the work is complete.  Many of the cases we know about have taken far too long to proceed through the legal system before a suitable professional is identified and work can begin. The longer the gap in contact between parent and alienated child the harder it becomes for a therapist to intervene. Getting a court decision in your favour is no use if the case has taken so long that restoring a relationship with the child is almost impossible.

We are also very keen to be able to keep a record of alienation cases in the Scottish courts that will help build knowledge and awareness of successful interventions but also learn from the unsuccessful ones, including those in which a potentially successful intervention stopped short through lack of funding.

Why are we launching this appeal. The rules around publicity that might identify an individual child make it very hard for any affected individual to embark on crowdfunding on their own behalf.  

Families Need Fathers is a recognised Scottish charity with a solid reputation.  We are asking you to trust us to use the money raised in an appropriate way.  We will seek guidance from various experts in deciding which cases are worthy of support, and we will use a proportion of the funds to support our training events and other work to publicise the ways in which parental alienation can be treated and overcome.

By supporting the Make it a FAIR Fight appeal you will help ensure that Scottish children aren’t needlessly excluded from the love and affection of one of their parents, and that intervention in cases of parental alienation will become widely available.

You will help us to confront the shoulder-shrugging lawyers who say "There’s nothing can be done. Ask the court to allow you to send Christmas and Birthday cards" or the therapists who say  "respect the voice of the child" without investigating what lies behind a child rejecting a parent they previously loved and who hasn't ever harmed them.

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