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Entries in Scottish courts (4)

Monday
Oct102016

‘Lay Assistant’ free training course to run in Edinburgh in November.

Families Need Fathers Scotland is recruiting for a ‘lay assistant’ free training course to run in Edinburgh in November.

As the number of party litigants appears to be increasing steadily in family law actions FNF Scotland has been aware of the importance of the support and steadying influence a lay assistant can have both in court and before court in keeping focus on the important issues at hand.

FNF Scotland National Manager, Ian Maxwell, says, “We ran a successful pilot course in Glasgow last month, introducing prospective lay assistant volunteers to the role they can play and the support they can give. We are clear that they’re not surrogate solicitors and aren’t there to give legal advice. But they are there to assist the party litigant - and the court - by taking notes of what is said during proceedings and keeping track of any documents that may be referred to during a child welfare hearing or, more crucially, during a proof.

There has been more use of lay assistants in other areas of civil litigation such as debt or housing but we have noticed the increased number of people who are opting to represent themselves in contact and residence cases. They do for a variety of reasons but the main one is that they find their earnings are just above the SLAB threshold but aren't enough to cope with legal fees that can quickly turn into thousands.”

Depending on demand the course will run over two sessions in mid November and includes presentations by FNF Scotland staff and family law solicitors, video simulations and role play. The training is free, funded by the Scottish Government's Volunteering Support Fund. Further courses will be run in Aberdeen and Stirling in early 2017.

Ian Maxwell says, “Our overall aim is a review of family law to reduce the adversarial nature of resolving arrangements for parenting of children after separation. We always advise negotiation or mediation rather than litigation. In the meantime we can’t ignore the rising number of party litigants and this training is aimed at helping them present their case as efficiently and effectively as possible in the interests not only of the court but in the interests of the children involved.

Anyone interest in signing up for the training should contact Alastair Williamson or ring 0131 557 2440.

Tuesday
Dec082015

Petitions Committee to raise fitness of family law with Scottish Government

The Scottish Parliament Public Petitions committee this morning undertook to write to the Scottish Government for its view on whether it is time to look seriously at a review of Scottish family law. 

The committee had taken evidence on his petition http://tinyurl.com/jkb8227 by Stewart Currie that had called for an independent review on a range of issues where he felt the procedures within family law for agreeing contact/residence arrangements for children when their parents no longer live together are unsatisfactory or contradictory and often work against the stated objective of making the child's interests paramount.

FNF Scotland had written to the committee http://tinyurl.com/je7p2s6   in support of Mr Currie's petition but also drawing to its attention the number of petitions in the same area that had been lodged during the current parliament since the 2011 Holyrood election.

Video http://tinyurl.com/jctuv48 of the committee discussion on the issue can be seen here, beginning at 45'00".

In the discussion after Mr Currie's evidence committee member, Hanzala Malik, said, "Children shouldn't have to suffer the indignity of being separated from one parent or another unless things are proven in court. Accusations come fast and furious - quite outrageous accusations. I agree with the petitioner and petitioners who have come to us. And if the petitioners are happy we can perhaps put them all together so we can ask the government to look at this more seriously."

Committee convener, Michael McMahon, said, "We do have to look at all these in the round ... We are building up a picture here of areas in which we would like to see the government answering in terms of family law."

Kenny MacAskill, former Justice Secretary, agreed. He said, "I do think we are at a juncture where we've moved on considerably from previous investigations both in parliament and in legislative change. We now have a change to the court system. We have changes to appointments and specialisations on the shrieval bench. We have pressure upon the legal aid board. ... I do think we're at a juncture where the government should be seeking to bring it all together rather than looking at any one bit individually. This is the time. The government should be asked to bring the current changes together and consider where we go."

FNF Scotland national manager, Ian Maxwell, said, "This is a very encouraging development. In our response to the committee on Mr Currie's petition we set out our view that Scotland's children and families will benefit from a broader change in prevailing culture that looks for the positives in parenting after separation. This is far better for children than the current adversarial approach by which one parent's time with his/her children is “won” at the expense of inflicting damage on the other.

It is a tribute to the perserverance of all the petitioners in recent years that the message is getting home that the law has been overtaken by social and economic changes within families in Scotland and by government policy which now recognises more clearly the obligations of both parents to promote the wellbeing of their children and also their children's right to family life."

 

 

Thursday
Aug132015

Non-harassment order ruled not to affect child contact

A father convicted of threatening or abusive behaviour (breach of the peace)  in connection with a contact dispute has been successful in appealing against a related non-harassment order which would have prevented him making any contact with his three children.

In the appeal judgement, delivered by Lord Brodie, it was concluded that as the children in this family were not the victims for which the non-harassment order was made, the original Sheriff was wrong in making an order that would prevent contact with them. Lady Clark in her summing up said "at no point in these proceedings has the best interests of the children been properly examined" although this comment wasn't included in the published judgement.

This decision is significant because it makes it less likely that non-harassment orders will be made in such a way as to stop all contact of a parent with children.

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.