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Entries in annabelle ewing MSP (1)

Thursday
Nov172016

Cross border contact issues raised at Holyrood

Concerns about the issues that arise when separated or separating parents move between the jurisdictions of the United Kingdom were raised during questions to the Justice Minister in Holyrood yesterday (November 16th 2016). 

 

Kate Forbes (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP) asked Annabelle Ewing "What support the Scottish Government can provide to people from Scotland who are engaged in legal proceedings in jurisdictions outside Scotland.

 

The Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs (Annabelle Ewing): It is for individuals themselves to raise and defend legal proceedings in other jurisdictions.  In international parental child abduction and child maintenance cases, support is available from the Scottish Government’s central authority team.

Kate Forbes: Engaging in legal proceedings around divorce and custody in another jurisdiction in the United Kingdom can be challenging, especially emotionally and financially, and can cause significant damage to relationships between children and both parents.  How can the Scottish Government better assist parents who are dealing with child contact and residence orders between and across jurisdictions?

Annabelle Ewing: I acknowledge the considerable stress that is caused in cross-border cases, including cases across the UK jurisdictions.  The Scottish Government cannot provide direct assistance to parents who are dealing with child contact and residence cases in other jurisdictions in the UK.  However, we provide financial support to a number of family support organisations, including Families Need Fathers. In addition, we intend to produce a guidance circular for legal practitioners and others in Scotland on the existing provisions that govern the area in the Family Law Act 1986, which applies across the UK and applies to cross-jurisdiction family actions.  We will also continue discussions with our opposite numbers in the UK Ministry of Justice and the Northern Ireland Executive. For example, we have suggested that the relevant form that is used in family cases south of the border could be amended to ask the applicant whether there is a potential Scottish or Northern Irish dimension to the case.  I understand that the Ministry of Justice is amenable to that proposal.

FNF Scotland national manager, Ian Maxwell, commented:
"We are grateful to Kate Forbes for raising this important matter and look forward to this guidance becoming available.  Where there are problems of raising or enforcing contact or residence proceedings across international boundaries there are remedies within the Hague Convention.  But we are regularly approached for advice where one parent takes children from one part of the United Kingdom to another, even when there is a contact order in place.  There ought to be simple, speedy and inexpensive procedures available between the UK jurisdictions but our experience is rather different.  Relationships can be damaged or lost during the time the cases work their way through court and, as so often, the cost can be crippling."