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Entries in consultation (16)

Wednesday
May302018

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."

Thursday
Nov172016

Pupil registration forms need to include both parents

FNF Scotland has submitted its evidence to the Review of the Effectiveness of the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 currently being carried out by National Parent Forum Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government.

The Review will examine the whole of the Act which replaced the old school boards with parent councils and changed a range of arrangements about parental involvement whole in school management.

Our submission focuses on the effectiveness of the part of the Act that required schools to engage equally with both parents if they live separately.  Our experience is that at an individual level schools are welcoming enough but the relationship is largely driven by the non-resident parent - making himself known and allaying any suspicions that there may be about him.

We suggest that the annual pupil registration forms should have a clear space for contact details of the non-resident parent and that these forms and other information need to reach both separated parents.

Involvement has to mean involvement. It is not achieved by giving one parent a stream of communication but the other only a trickle. Schools should ask the non-resident parent how s/he would prefer to receive such information and provide it.

We are currently gathering and reviewing pupil information forms from all Scottish local authorities

Monday
Oct172016

Contribute to the review of parental involvement with schools

The Scottish Government last year announced a review of the effectiveness of the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006. The National Parent Forum Scotland was commissioned to carry out the review.

The NPFS has an online questionaire for parents at this link.

The explicit ambition of the Guidance that accompanied the Act was to urge schools to “work hard” to engage with several specific groups including fathers in general and non-resident parents in particular. They were named specifically because it was perceived that previously they tended to be by-passed or overlooked by the previous experience of parental involvement.

It is therefore very important that fathers and non-resident parents contribute their experience - good and bad – of how successful schools presently are in actively including them. The closing date for completing the online questionaire is October 31st.

FNF Scotland has been particularly active in assisting both schools and non-resident parents establish a constructive relationship. Our publication Equal Parents  sets out the legal entitlements to information about your children at school but also gives advice on how to get your relationship off on the right foot.

There is a raft of research evidence that shows that children do better in and out of school when both parents are significantly involved with their education.

We will make an overall FNF Scotland submission drawn from our casework but this is a significant opportunity for individual non-resident parents to contribute their personal experience to the review and influence the conclusions of how effective the 2006 Act has been in meeting its original ambitions. 

If you do complete the questionaire please let us know. E mail john.forsyth@fnfscotland.org.

Reminder: the deadline is October 31st.

 

 

Tuesday
Jul072015

Coercive control should include denial of contact

The Scottish Government recently sought views on proposals to change the law on various aspects of domestic abuse and sexual offences. The proposals, entitled Equally Safe: Scotland's strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls  were published last summer.

The proposals set out in the recent consultation focus on specific offences concerning domestic abuse and the non-consensual sharing of private, intimate images, the introduction of statutory jury directions in sexual offence cases, the extra-territorial effect of the law concerning sexual offences committed against children and the circumstances in which a court can grant a non-harassment order.

Of course, none of these are experienced only by women and girls.

The overarching question posed in the consultations is “whether the current criminal law reflects the true experience of victims of long-term domestic abuse,including coercive control, and whether a specific domestic abuse offence would improve the ability of people to access justice through effective prosecution ofdomestic abuse”.

We believe the current ‘gendered definition’ of domestic abuse is in danger of painting law and policy in Scotland into a cul de sac. Gendered analysis can be and often is a useful tool for interpreting issues in our society - in the same way as can analysis by age, class, race or sexuality - but it is not the holy grail. Even the statistics presented in the Equally Safe guidance in support of the proposals hardly sustain the heavy interpretation placed on them.

Both police recorded statistics and the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey over many years have shown a consistent trend in which the domestic abuse is not exclusively experienced by women. The proportion experienced by men and boys has grown steadily over the 20 years in which statistics have been gathered.

However, FNF Scotland does not wish to stray beyond the limited area of our own casework and we focused our submission on the questions referring to 'coercive control'. The full text of our submission will appear on the consultation website in due course but the main points are:

  • Our casework reveals to us the wilful disruption of meaningful contact between a non-resident parent and his children is a form of coercive control that is currently overlooked, virtually never recorded and appears to be inconvenient to the prevailing narrative. It is overwhelmingly experienced by male non-resident parents. The further victims are a generation of Scotland’s children.
  • A high proportion of the non-resident fathers who contact us report that they experience the restriction or outright denial of parenting time with their children by their former partner as a form of domestic abuse.
  • We hear repeatedly of occasions where the non-resident father has arrived to pick up his children for agreed contact and has been told “they’re no coming – and there’s nothing you can do about it”! This happens even when there is a court order for the contact to take place as well as when there is an informal agreement for contact. In the latter case the entire control of whether to fulfill the arrangement  is in the control of the parent with care. We know that some non-resident parents (approximately 90% of whom are fathers) have attempted to report these incidents to police as instances of domestic abuse but are invariably told that this is a “civil matter”. One father was simply told by the desk officer to “go away and grow up”.
  • Our experience, drawn from extensive casework, is that control of a non-resident parent’s time with his children covers a spectrum from a casual cultural presumption that “it’s a mother’s right to give or withhold” to examples of overt intention to break the relationship entirely.  This is a scenario that is happening daily across Scotland and is a brutal form of coercive control that is used with impunity against former partners. It is also a form of child abuse in the damage it may do to the wellbeing of the children involved.
  • The legal remedies for failure to comply with a court contact order are at present slow, expensive and ultimately unsatisfactory because they require the victim of coercive control (the person whose contact is denied) to raise an action that may damage the relationship with the children if it is seen as the father threatening the mother with punishment.
  • We feel that unfounded and unjustified denial or control of the opportunity for a non-resident parent to fulfil his Paternal Rights and Responsibilities (as encouraged in other areas of Scottish Government policy) should be included explicitly as an offence within domestic abuse.
Friday
Feb072014

Reform moves a step closer for civil cases in Scotland

The newly published Courts Reform Scotland Bill is intended to overhaul the whole system in order to direct proceedings to the most appropriate judge and court and make civil justice quicker and cheaper.

The most direct areas of concern for FNF Scotland are the proposals to develop  'specialisation' among sheriffs. The tradition up to now has been that any sheriff should be able to turn his or her hand to any matter that lay within the jurisdiction of Scottish civil law. Lord Gill, who carried out the original civil justice review, recommended increased specialisation in areas such as personal injury, commercial law - or family law.

In practice the larger courts already do this to some degree but it isn't really practical in the smaller courts. Some of the smaller courts are already marked for closure with their business being moved to bigger courts.

Another significant proposal is the creation of a new category of 'summary sheriffs' who might end up dealing with some contact and residence matters.

Lord Gill's review also highlighted the need for better forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) which could easily be relevant to family cases. The most often mentioned form of ADR in family cases is mediation in its various forms but some separated parents have also tried arbitration.

While ADR might not need legislation, FNF Scotland will be pressing for it not to be forgotten in amongst the court reform.