If you find this site useful, please donate to support our work

Get our latest news by email:


Looking for something?


Entries in contact (15)


Talk by Sue Whitcombe and Pat Barclay

FNF Scotland is holding an evening meeting on Thursday 22nd March about working with parents to overcome their children's resistance to contact.  It takes place at 10 Palmerston Place from 7-9 pm and tickets can be booked using this link.

This session is a chance to hear from two key people who have been undertaking a lot of work with separated families in recent years across Great Britain.  Following presentations about their current experience and what seems to be working, we will have a general discussion about the way forward for parents trying to deal with resistance to contact or outright rejection.

Dr SUE WHITCOMBE is a Counselling Psychologist registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. She is a Chartered member and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, Chair of the Training Committee for Counselling Psychology and sits on the BPS Expert Witness Advisory Group and Children and Young People Mental Health Group.
Sue has 20 years’ experience working with children and families and is Principal Psychologist at Family Psychology Solutions, a not-for-profit social enterprise, which she founded with the support of Teesside University.

PAT BARCLAY has considerable experience working with separated families to reduce and protect children from the adverse effects of their parent’s acrimony, with experience of both collaborative separation and litigation through court. Her social work qualifications, knowledge and experience of child development and child protection procedures allows her to provide a specialist service in Scotland of child focused work for family separation.
Her work aims are to protect children caught up in contact disputes and promote contact in the best interest of their welfare and developmental stage. She also has experience of relationship counselling and systemic family counselling to combine with specialist, evidence based knowledge of children’s development and the risk to this from parental conflict.


Child health problems caused by court decisions

Dr VezzettiA wide-ranging review paper by Dr Vittorio Vezzetti published in Health Psychology Open documents the children's health problems that can result from inappropriate family court decisions.  Parental loss during parental separation can affect the wellbeing and health of young children.

His study looks at the impact of the traumatic experience of parental separation, which may only become apparent after 10, 20 or 30 years.  More than 10 million children in Europe are affected by parental separation.

After considering evidence from a wide range of international peer-reviewed studies, Dr Vezzetti considers how various European and United States legislatures make shared parenting decisions, concluding that it is necessary for the judges to take more account of the health impact on children of reducing or ending contact with one parent.


Radio Four drama on legal contact case feels true to life

A 45-minute drama of Radio Four felt very realistic, even if the case was set in the English courts and concerned a very particular aspect of child contact.

Behind Closed Doors  is set in the Family Courts where Harry, a sperm donor, is trying to get a court order to allow him to see 'his' daughter. Beth - the mother - is now in a lesbian relationship and would prefer Harry to keep his distance.

Harry offered to donate sperm so his lesbian friend and work colleague, Beth, could have a baby. After the birth Harry visited Beth and got to know baby Molly. For a time Beth was happy for Harry to visit but she never intended to have a relationship with him or for him to become involved with Molly as a father. Things went from bad to worse when Beth formed a relationship with Melanie and Harry felt he was completely excluded from seeing Molly. Now a judge has to decide whether Harry should have any contact rights.

Because of the English court setting, the court hearing involved a CAFCASS report and the father was representing himself (no legal aid in England).  But factors such as the judge telling parents that the case involves the interests of the child rather than their rights, the difference in the child's attitude to her father when interviewed away from the mother, and the mother's admission that her anxiety about contact could be affecting her daughter could have been copied straight from many of the cases we hear about at FNFS.  Well worth a listen.


Research explores child outcomes after parental separation

This report presents findings from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) of children born around 2000.  This study looked at data from 826 of these children who experienced parental separation at some point between the ages of 9 months and 7 years

It describes variations in contact between children and non-resident parents, and use of court for settling contact or financial arrangements.

Among children of separated parents, the results suggest that more contact with the non-resident parent was associated with better outcomes for children at age 11. 

The findings support existing evidence showing that children of separated parents have worse outcomes compared with children of parents who are still together. The findings also suggest that contact with the non-resident parent may mitigate against the negative effects of separation.

More contact with the non-resident parent was significantly associated with lower odds of the cohort child smoking and damaging things in public spaces (at the 10% and 5% level, respectively).

The results also indicate, although not to a significant extent, that more contact with the non-resident parent was associated with lower predicted probabilities of being noisy in public spaces, stealing from a shop and writing on buildings. On the other hand, more contact with the non-resident parent was also associated with a higher predicted probability of the cohort child drinking alcohol.

Overall the results showed that girls had statistically significantly more positive outcomes than boys on some measures.

As with the Growing Up in Scotland cohort study, the information in this study is obtained from the resident parent and so may not present the full picture, but the missing information is likely to present an even more positive view of contact.  These results can also be compared with Swedish whole population studies. Although this research is published by the English Ministry of Justice, the study covered the whole of the UK.


A "no contact" order requires substantial justification

A recent Court of Session judgement has overturned Sheriff Court and Sheriff Principal decisions to stop a father's contact with his daughter, returning the case to a different Sheriff for reconsideration.

The Sheriff had stopped all contact following the breakdown in relationship between the parents.  Lawyers for the mother also argued the father had made various allegations to social workers and medical professionals that his daughter had been ill treated. They argued there was a risk that he would continue to make such allegations. 

Before the original Sheriff Court case, the father had enjoyed substantial contact with his three year old daughter, both before and after separation from the mother. He had cared for his child three days per week while the mother was at work.

In the appeal, it was successfully argued that refusing further contact was a substantial interference in family life.  Lord Eassie in the judgement agreed with the submission that: "where a decision is taken to interfere in an existing, and in practical terms significant, family relationship between a parent and the child by, in substance, bringing that relationship to an end a careful balancing exercise requires to be carried out and factors require to be identified which clearly make that step necessary and justified in the paramount interest of the child."

This balancing exercise had not been carried out in the original hearing.

The Judges also considered that: "the approach of the sheriff in requiring that the defender identify a “concrete example” of a “discernable benefit” from continuing contact (and in dismissing the defender’s explanation of the benefit of contact by doing normal “father and daughter things”) is an approach which in itself largely sets aside the intrinsic value of the child’s having a relationship with both parents.  Doing “normal father and daughter things” is simply a part of a normal relationship between a female child and her father."

They also stated "... the sheriff’s conclusion that there was a risk of future emotional harm from the repeated making of spurious complaints respecting the child’s welfare in the future proceeds on relatively slender foundations."

It was therefore considered "... this is a case in which as an appellate court we should conclude that the sheriff has gone plainly wrong".

This Inner House decision can be referred to in other cases where contact has been stopped, and we await with interest the affect it may have on future court decisions.  Because this father had been refused legal aid for his appeals, he had lay representation in the Court of Session by Ian Maxwell of Families Need Fathers Scotland, using arguments which had been prepared by his original solicitor Billy Finlayson.