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Entries in Children (Scotland) Act (2)


Children (Scotland) Bill published

The Scottish Government has published the Children (Scotland) Bill along with a Policy Memorandum and Explanatory Notes which explain background to the legislation.  It will now be debated in the Scottish Parliament, with the main scrutiny probably taking place in the Justice Committee this Autumn.

A Family Justice Modernisation Strategy has also been published today, outlining work that is ongoing by Scottish Government and others to improve the operation of family justice; work that can be done through secondary legislation or by improved guidance, areas covered by the Children (Scotland) Bill which has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament, and areas that are for longer term work.

Commenting on the Bill, Ian Maxwell from Families Need Fathers Scotland said:

"While measures regulating Child Welfare Reporters and Contact Centres and on taking views of the child are welcome, the Bill as it stands is a massively wasted opportunity."  

"Families Need Fathers Scotland will press hard during the Scottish Parliament's consideration of the Bill for equally shared parenting to become the starting point if a court has to decide about arrangements for children after separation."

"This change has worked well in a range of other countries, and it would put Scotland ahead of other UK legislations in promoting the involvement of both parents with their children even if they live apart."

The Scottish Government says that the new legislation aims to ensure that children’s best interests are at the centre of every family law case and that children’s views are heard by the court.

The Children (Scotland) Bill will further strengthen the family law system. Proposals include regulation of child contact centres to ensure they are safe places for children to meet family members.

Child welfare reporters, who may be appointed when the court has been asked to resolve a dispute between parents, will also be regulated. This will ensure reporters are trained to understand and respond to issues such as domestic abuse and coercive control.

Other improvements for domestic abuse victims and their children include allowing special measures such as screens and a live video links to be used in Child Welfare Hearings, and prohibiting a party from conducting their own case if there is a vulnerable witness.

Community Safety Minister Ash Denham said:

 “We know that family breakdown can be very upsetting for children. It is our responsibility to ensure the family justice system is supportive and does not contribute to their distress. That means putting the best interests of the child first in every case and ensuring their voice is heard, including younger children.

“Children’s welfare is paramount and we have been guided by their views and experiences in developing this bill. More than half of responses to the consultation came via our child-friendly questionnaire.”

Families Need Fathers Scotland will comment in more detail on the Bill shortly.


Equal Rights for Unmarried Fathers

The public petitions committee of the Scottish Parliament has discussed a petition lodged by Ron Park calling for Equal Rights for Unmarried Fathers.

Ron explains the background of his petition that his son, Alex, was born in October 2013 but the mother has refused ever to let him even see him. He has not been named as the father in Alex's birth certificate. Ron explains the efforts he has made to see the child and to have a role in boy's life - and his shock at discovering there are no mechanisms in Scots law to assist him.

Ron is calling for:

1. Both parents must be named on a birth certificate before a birth can be legally registered. Where the child's parentage is in doubt, all avenues must be explored in determining the child's father to the satisfaction of a court. If it is still not possible to name the child's father for whatever reason, a court may grant a registered birth with only one parent.

2. After parentage is determined, and should both parents be found to be fit and able to care for the child should an investigation be necessary, full rights and responsibilities will be awarded to BOTH parents. This will include the duty of care and living arrangements either agreed by mutual consent or, as a last resort, a court order.

3. And perhaps my most important change in that if the court orders a DNA test, or anything else for that matter, then failure to comply with this request should be considered contempt of court. If we cannot rely on our legal system to fall back on, then we simply have a lawless and anarchic society. 

The full petition, now signed by 423 individuals, can be found here. http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/GettingInvolved/Petitions/petitionPDF/PE01513.pdf

FNF Scotland national manager, Ian Maxwell, says, "This is an important initiative by Ron Park. Many people, including legislators, are unaware of how difficult and heartbreaking it can be for an unmarried non-resident father to be an involved parent of his child - especially a new born - if the mother wishes to exclude him for reasons of her own.

There is a raft of evidence that shows children do better in every area of their life - in health, educational attainment, self esteem and maintaining relationships themselves when both parents and their respective extended families are fully involved even after divorce or separation.

Successive Scottish Children's Acts have stressed that the paramount concern of both parents should be the best interests of their children. Public policy repeatedly reminds us of our responsibilities as parents towards our children.

We hope the Public Petitions Committee will take an active view of Mr Park's petition and urge on the Scottish Government the need to bring our parenting legislation up to date with current expectations about parental involvement and prevent individual tragedies such as Mr Park's."

Families Need Fathers Scotland will be providing further information to the committee about an issue which features in many of the enquiries we receive.