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Select committee reports on child maintenance reform

The Work and Pensions select committee has issued their report on the Government's proposals for reform of child maintenance

Families Need Fathers is concerned that the Work and Pensions Committee’s recommendations would risk demonizing parents paying child maintenance. The report seems to presume that where there are difficulties with the arrangement and collection of maintenance payments, the responsibility for this will lay solely with the parent living apart from the children. (FNF response to the committee report.)

The original proposals completely ignored Scottish aspects of child maintenance.  The select committee report includes written evidence from John Fotheringham of Fyfe Ireland Solicitors regarding the lack of Scottish input into the Green Paper, raising questions about how the proposed gateway would work in Scotland and suggesting that the 12 month rule regarding registered minutes of agreement should be extended to five years.


GMC consultation on child protection

 The General Medical Council are carrying out a public consultation to develop new guidance for doctors on issues of child protection.  A draft set of guidance and questionnaires for medical practitioners and the general public are available on their web site.

Key issues emerging during the development of the guidance included the benefits of good and constructive communication with parents and carers.  The draft guidance includes consideration of how doctors should update a patient's records when concerns of abuse are unsubstantiated and of standards for report writing and delivery of evidence.

This guidance will apply across the whole of the UK and it is important that the views of separated parents are taken into account  The consultation will be running until the 14th October 2011.


About Changing Families

About Families is a lottery funded project about putting research evidence into action on various apects of family life in Scotland.  Their latest topic report on how families can be supported both together and apart in relation to separation and divorce has just been published.

It provides a useful roundup of recent research evidence, which also shows up some gaps such as the lack of information about families affected by disability.

While the overall study is very useful in raising the need for more support for parents, FNF Scotland does have concerns about one comment in the section on "non-resident parents".

It raises the question:  "how can services support parents in understanding and adapting to their new roles as primary care-giver or non-resident parent?"

We would suggest that shared or collaborative parenting is a way of escaping from these markedly unequal roles.   Shared parenting does not necessarily mean a 50:50 split in time or residence, but it does mean that both parents are significantly involved in care giving and decision making.

About Families is a partnership between the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, Parenting across Scotland and Capability Scotland.


Supreme Court orders mother to return

A mother who removed two children to the UK without consent from their father has been ordered to return with them to Norway, the children's country of birth and habitual residence.

The case was heard in the Supreme Court because of arguments concerning aspects of the Hague Convention, which requires a child to be returned forthwith if wrongly removed by one parent.

An English court had already decided that it was overwhelmingly in the children's best interests to return to Norway for their futures to be decided there.

The Supreme Court confirmed this decision, despite arguments that the father's behaviour put the mother and her children at risk of harm, which were denied by the father.  These allegations will be investigated in the Norwegian court, and the father has given undertakings that he will vacate the family home, pay child support and not remove the children from the mother's care.

The judgement states that the best interests of the children have two aspects: to be reunited with their parents as soon as possible so that one parent does not gain an unfair advantage over the other through passage of time; and to be brought up in a "sound environment" in which they are not at risk of harm.

It reasserts the Hague principle that abducted children should be returned as soon as possible, saying that where there are disputed allegations which can nether be tried or objectively be verified in the UK and sufficient protective measures are available in Norway, the exceptions to this obligation to return do not apply.


Rise in Parental Child Abductions 

Famlies Need Fathers has issued a call for reform of the current approach to abduction and relocation cases, following news of a 21% rise in international parental adduction cases this year.

The Foreigh Office is launching a new campaign to raise awareness of what people can do to prevent abduction, working with Reunite International.

FNF chief executive Ken Sanderson expressed concern at this news, and commented that the legal system's approach to abduction and relocation is in drastic need of an overhaul.

Although international aspects of abduction are handled at UK level, FNF Scotland has already asked the Scottish Justice Minister Roseanna Cunningham about difficulties in deciding whether English or Scottish courts deal with cases where one parent has abducted the children from Scotland to England.

If you are worried your child might be at risk, or if your child has been abducted you can call the Child Abduction Section at the Foreign Office on 0207 008 0878 or www.fco.gov.uk or reunite on 0116 2556 234.