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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.


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

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