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Monday
Mar062017

Appeal judgment confirms that child was wrongly retained in Scotland

In a Hague Convention case a three judge bench of the Court of Session last month upheld an earlier decision that a 15 month old child had been wrongly retained in Scotland by his mother and should return to Australia and the jurisdiction of the Australian courts to determine issues of residence and contact.

The judgment, delivered  by Lady Paton, confirmed judge of first instance findings that the  father had not agreed that the mother should relocate to Scotland. He had been led to believe by the mother that her trip in May 2016 was by way of a 3 month holiday to spend time with her family in Midlothian. She had purchased a return ticket and had told their friends and family in Australia that she would be back in August.

The court also rejected the mother's argument that the child had now become 'habitually resident' in Scotland and that therefore the Scottish courts should have jurisdiction.

FNF Scotland National Manager, Ian Maxwell, commented, '' This is a useful judgment. Many fathers and mothers who ask us about 'habitual residence' think it is a matter of simple arithmetic – that there's a tipping point of a certain number of months that moves jurisdiction from one country to another. This judgment sets out the arguments from Scotland and elsewhere, including the UK Supreme Court, about the factors that must be taken into account. It can be shorter or longer depending on the age and circumstances of the child in each location.  The Hague Convention sets out a legal framework that must be applied in cases of international abduction and we hope the facts and circumstances that are required to be explored should also be addressed in the more frequent cases we see of abrupt relocations within Scotland and within the UK.

In this case the mother had presented a list of actions she had taken such as applying for child tax credit and child benefit, registering with a dentist and a GP and enrolling at a swimming class and a library. But the court found these were mostly matters of changing the status of the mother and the child's welfare:

'… these steps seem to us equally attributable to steps which might be taken for the care and wellbeing of a child away from home on a long holiday, and in our opinion did not bring about such an integration in Scottish life that the first instance judge could not reasonably have concluded that the child had not lost his habitual residence in Australia.'

The decision to stay in Scotland had not been done in consultation with the father, denying him his parental right to be involved in such important decisions about their child."

Tuesday
Feb282017

Swedish shared residence research

Children living in shared residence (joint physical custody where the child is sharing time equally between two parent's homes) have similar outcomes to children living with two parents in the same household over a range of measures.  Children living with one parent show worse outcomes for some of these outcomes.

These results come from "The living conditions of children with shared residence - the Swedish example" a research study published in Child Indicators Research Journal.

The differences between shared and sole parenting were particularly true for economic and material conditions, relations with parents and health related outcomes while fewer differences were found in the school conditions studied here. These patterns were robust and only minimally affected by adjustment for parental education and country of birth.

The study took data from the yearly Swedish Living Conditions survey and its child supplement using information collected from children and parents. Sweden is ranked very high in the European index of child wellbeing and has high levels of shared parenting after separation.  Since 1998 the Swedish court has been able to order shared residence even if one parent opposes if the court finds this solution to be in the best interest of the child.

The researchers suggest that there is a need for further study the role of timing of the parental separation and the long-term consequences of growing up in various family forms.

Wednesday
Feb152017

Government has an eye on schools' engagement with non-resident parents

  • Glasgow Provan MSP, Ivan McKee, raised the issue of the patchy engagement of some local authorities in Scotland with non-resident parents in the Scottish Parliament on February 9th. Answering for the Scottish Government, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney, agreed that research shows the educational benefit to children of the involvement of parents in their learning and anticipates further development of government guidance in this area.
  • The officlal report reads:
  •  Ivan McKee (Glasgow Provan) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government how it ensures that schools communicate with both resident and non-resident parents. 
  • The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (John Swinney): The Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 imposes a range of duties on local authorities and schools to promote the involvement of all parents in their children’s education. Paragraph 20 of the statutory guidance on the act makes it clear that: “It is important that education authorities and schools do as much as they can to support the continued involvement of parents who don’t live with their children.”
  •  The National Parent Forum of Scotland has been undertaking a review of the 2006 act and will make its recommendations to the Scottish Government in the spring. The Government will consider the forum’s report, including any conclusions that relate to communication and consultation between schools and non-resident parents.
  • Ivan McKee: There is much research that shows that children learn better when both parents are actively involved in their education. Unfortunately, a significant proportion of non-resident parents find themselves excluded from involvement in their children’s school life, often through the poor engagement practices of local authorities. 
  • There is good practice by Western Isles Council, which does not start from the presumption that all children live with both parents. Does the cabinet secretary agree that the issuing of guidelines to encourage local authorities to share best practice would benefit the educational attainment of the up to 30 per cent of children who do not live with both parents?
  • John Swinney: I agree with Mr McKee’s conclusions about the research evidence. The issue is strongly reflected in the national improvement framework, which highlights the involvement of parents in young people’s educational experience as a significant consideration that schools and local authorities should take into account. I am familiar with the good practice that emanates from the Western Isles on the question and I certainly agree that the quality of guidance is important to inform improved practice. 
  • As I indicated in my original answer, we expect a review of many of the issues from the National Parent Forum. I will reflect on that and on Mr McKee’s points, which will inform any further development of guidance by the Government.
Wednesday
Feb082017

Child Maintenance Training notes

Following our recent training session on the changes to the child maintenance system conducted by John Fotheringham, we have produced a note summarising some of the points that were covered in the session.

Many people are now having their case under the previous child support system closed and the training note describes some basic aspects of the new system and some of the changes in the way maintenance is calculated. The note also describes how variations and shared care are dealt with in the new scheme and how aliment interfaces with child support, all mainly from the viewpoint of the person who pays maintenance.

Families Need Fathers Scotland would like to hear from anyone facing problems with this transition or who is being asked to pay the new charges without good reason.  FNF UK has made a submission to the House of Commons select commitee enquiry into the working of the new system and also took part in an oral hearing on November 16th 2016.

Thursday
Jan192017

Should Infants and Toddlers Have Frequent Overnight Parenting Time With Fathers?

Professor FabriciusSeparated fathers often face resistance when they ask for their young children to stay overnight.

But a new study published in Psychology, Public Policy and Law suggests overnights in both parents’ homes (up to and including equal time spent in each) are associated with benefits to both mother-child and father-child relationships – even if the overnight parenting plan is imposed against one parent’s initial wishes.  The controversy relating to overnights has already been addressed in review papers by Warsak and Nielsen supporting the benefits of overnight stays with separated fathers.

This new study by William Fabricius and Go Woon Sun shows that these benefits held after controlling for subsequent parenting time with fathers in childhood and adolescence, parent education and conflict up to 5 years after the separation, and children’s sex and age at separation.  It focussed on longer-term associations with overnights, maintained a focus on the father-child relationship and also examined daytime-only parenting time.  Data were obtained from 230 college students whose parents separated before they were three years of age and from at least one of their parents.

While the findings do not establish causality they provide strong support for policies to encourage frequent overnight parenting time for infants and toddlers, because the benefits associated with overnights also held for parents who initially agreed about overnights as well as for those who disagreed and had the overnight parenting plan imposed over 1 parent’s objections. The observed benefits for the long-term father-child relationship are consistent with findings from intervention studies showing that fathers who are more involved with infants and toddlers develop better parenting skills and relationships with their children.

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