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Entries in Scottish family law (5)

Sunday
Jul092017

Launch of new Shared Parenting website by FNF Scotland

Families Need Fathers Scotland has launched www.sharedparenting.info, a new information and discussion website raising awareness about the benefits of sharing the care of children after parents separate.

The new site offers:

  • Summaries of the academic research into shared parenting

  • Legislation and case law concerning shared parenting in Scotland and around the world

  • Stories of Scottish families who already share parenting

  • Information, experience and advice for making shared parenting work

  • Considerations for when shared parenting may be more difficult

FNF Scotland hopes the website will support its case for prioritising shared parenting during the review of Scots family law which is expected to happen in 2018.

FNF Scotland national manager, Ian Maxwell says, “The realities of family life in Scotland have transformed in recent decades for a host of political, social, cultural and economic reasons. As more mothers are active in the workplace so parenting roles at home have evolved. Parents expect more of each other and children expect more of both.

Yet in Scotland when a relationship breaks down old paradigms slip back into place with a presumption of one 'main' parent and a ‘visitor’. While lip service is paid to encouraging parents to negotiate suitable arrangements for caring for their children after separation everyone knows that if they don't agree the failsafe position will revert to the adversarial approach by which one parent wins time with his/her children by criticising the other.

In addition the system of child benefit and child support creates a financial disincentive to the current 'main' parent to share parenting even if s/he accepts that the children would benefit from spending more time with the other.

FNF Scotland's starting point is to explore what arrangements can be put in place for the long term benefits of the children. Research from around the world shows that in general children benefit in most areas of their emotional and psychological wellbeing when they spend as near as possible to equal time with both their parents and when they can see both parents are given equal status and respect by professionals and politicians.

Shared parenting also liberates both parents from gender stereotypes.

There isn't a switch that can be flicked to change attitudes overnight but we are looking forward to next year's review of Scottish family law. Our launch of www.sharedparenting.info is intended to share peer reviewed research and personal experience of what can be achieved for our children with a different approach to parenting after separation.”

www.sharedparenting.info and its content has been designed, written and constructed by Isabelle Introna, a student from the University of Edinburgh on the EmployEd Third Sector Internship Scheme.

Tuesday
Apr252017

Scottish Parliament marks Parental Alienation Awareness Day

A motion tabled by John Mason MSP has already been signed by 18 other MSPs as noted below. 

The day has also been marked by a press release issued across Europe by the Platform for European Fathers, and a Good Parenting ‘quiz’ issued by FNF to help raise the awareness of this terrible problem and the types of unacceptable behaviour that lead to children being alienated against formerly much loved parents.  

"International Parental Alienation Awareness Day  

That the Parliament notes that 25 April marks International Parental Alienation Awareness Day; notes that, in over 30 countries, the day aims to highlight the damaging impact that such alienation, when one parent influences a child to reject the other parent following separation, can have on families; believes that, as this can sometimes happen unintentionally, highlighting the signs of alienation are key; understands that the side effects of such alienation can include an increased risk to the mental health of the children and family members who lose access; considers that, where possible, allowing both parents to be involved in the life of a child following separation leads to the best outcome, and hopes that the awareness day will help increase awareness of the benefits that healthy relationships between separated parents can bring."

Supported by: James Dornan, Gillian Martin, Ivan McKee, David Torrance, Sandra White, Ash Denham, Colin Beattie, Bill Kidd, Jeremy Balfour, Fulton MacGregor, Ben Macpherson, Clare Haughey, Jenny Gilruth, Kate Forbes, Maree Todd, Gil Paterson, David Stewart, Tom Arthur

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.

Wednesday
Sep072016

FNF Scotland comment on Scottish Government legislative programme

The Scottish Government has presented its list of proposed bills for the coming session of the Scottish Parliament.

Ian Maxwell of Families Need Fathers Scotland said today:

"We are still looking for more information on how the Scottish Government intends to take forward the SNP manifesto commitment to a review of family law. It will be encouraging if its absence from this session's legislative programme is an indicator that it is taking a thoughtful approach to the issues rather than rushing into legislation that will be in place for a generation. Family law and the recognition of the value of both parents to their children is, as the Council of Europe asserted last year,  fundamentally an equalities issue.

We are also aware from the cases that come to us from non-resident parents - mothers as well as fathers - and grandparents that too often turning off and on contact with children has become a form of coercive control by the parent with most care. The legislation in England and Wales made it effectively impossible for a non-resident parent to invoke the protections of the coercive control domestic abuse law and we will make representations to the Scottish Government that our legislation should not contain that loophole.

But of course, our ambition for Scotland is to change the culture in family law that too often pays lip service to putting the interests of the children first while persisting with an adversarial system that does the opposite." 

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."