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Fathers Day Charter 2015




Magna Carta, whose 800th anniversary has just been celebrated, set down some some basic principles that evolved over the centuries as democracy and legal process advanced into the broad rights and obligations we know today. The evolution has always been led by changes in society and the general expectations of what is fair and right.

The evolution of the part fathers play in parenting their children is following a similar path. It is clearly being led by changes in family structures within the wider economy and the expectations that fathers themselves have about their relationship with their children within marriage or long term relationship. There is general approval of this evolution at the wider level of public policy and also at individual level by both mothers and fathers. Unfortunately, when the relationship between parents breaks down attitudes often go into reverse to the disadvantage not only of the parents but also their children.

FNF Scotland believes we are on a journey towards shared parenting - public policy that recognises the benefits to children and their wellbeing of meaningful involvement of both mother and father, founded on equal respect to their standing rather than competition for it. 

A YouGov survey in 2012 found that 86% of us believe that the role of fathers has changed dramatically in the past 50 years; 85% that fathers play an instrumental role in bringing up children; 95% that both parents should share responsibility for bringing up children; and 84% that both parents should have an equal standing when it comes to caring for their children after separation.

Unfortunately, we still find on a daily basis through FNF’s support services that too many children end up losing a relationship with a loving parent (and his extended family) after separation, not because there would be any risk to the child, but principally because conflict between the parents is exacerbated by the cost and emotional drain of current procedures within family law. 

We need far more emphasis on collaborative dispute resolution and therapeutic methods of helping separated and separating parents to overcome mutual hostility in favour of doing a better job in supporting their children’s futures. Estranged partners don't have to like each other as individuals but they should respect each other as parents. That's what 'putting the children first' means. 

The family justice system has made some important strides in recent years to ensure that fathers are able to maintain a meaningful parenting relationship with their children, but there are still a number of areas which require urgent improvement. This Charter sets out some key areas which we believe require attention.

 The Charter has been compiled by Families Need Fathers charities in England, Wales and Scotland. This version of the Charter is intended for use in Scotland.

            No child should be denied a full and loving relationship with both their parents unless it has been proven that such a relationship presents a risk to the child.

  • Scottish Family law governing contact and residence in Scotland, is in need of review. The reality of family structures has evolved dramatically in Scotland over the decades since the 1995 Children (Scotland) Act, including the participation of fathers in parenting their children. The equivalent legislation in England and Wales was revised in 2014. The current law allows unduly adverarial attitudes to develop between parents not only in formal proceedings but in the prolonged correspondence between solicitors that may never be referred to in court.

  • Parental alienation’, where children feel pressurised to reject the one parent, should be recognised and dealt with. Professionals working with separated families should receive training to assist them in recognising these patterns of behaviour. Deliberate attempts at alienation should be considered as abuse, and as a form of 'coercive control' domestic violence.

  • Policies that act as a barrier to the involvement of both parents, such as the 'spare room subsidy' (bedroom tax) which prevent many separated parents on low incomes from having their children stay with them overnight should be reviewed and amended.

  • Allegations of violence or abuse made as a reason for stopping or restricting contact with a non-resident parent should be investigated fully and with urgency. Too often untested allegations hang over contact and residence proceedings for months or longer, often suspending or undermining the relationship between a child and the accused parent. Costs should be routinely recovered from those who raise malicious allegations for tactical reasons as part of proceedings.

  • Separated parents should be helped to avoid the courts and to overcome mutual animosities and learn to put aside their differences in favour of the nobler and more mature goal – their children’s happiness and wellbeing.

  • Legislation to encourage joint birth registration should be considered. This will encourage the involvement of unmarried fathers in their children’s lives, and send an important signal from Government about the important role both parents have to play in their child’s life.


              The family justice system should promote collaboration and co-parenting between parents following separation.

  • Efforts to promote the resolution of conflict outside of court, such as through mediation or educating parents on the impact of conflict on their children, should continue to form a central part of family law reform.

  • While some judges appear to be unduly wary of the phrase, 'shared parenting', others are comfortable with it as a concise expression that both parents matter to their children even when they no longer live together. Equality of standing and respect does not necessarily mean a strict arithmetical division of time with each parent but makes discussion of the arrangements that will be best for the children more likely to be successful than when one parent has an effective veto.


           Family courts need to respond swiftly to breaches of Contact Orders, to ensure that relationships between children and the parent they do not live with day-to-day are not compromised.

  • Orders are only made where the court has found that the arrangements will best serve the interests of the child. Wilful, casual and continued breaches of orders are unacceptable, and actively work against the best interests of the child. It is up to the courts to decide if an order needs to be varied, and not a decision for a parent to take unilaterally.

  • Courts and police need to be aware of the flashpoint that can occur when a non-resident parent arrives to collect children for contact time – either agreed or court ordered – and is bluntly told the kids aren't coming. FNF Scotland is aware of many occasions when the non-resident parent has been arrested and spent time in the cells. Some are prosecuted and some are not. Police, courts and professionals should consider how the non-resident parent should be protected from the distress of frustrated contact.


              Information and support services should be easily accessible for separating parents throughout the different pathways of the family justice system.

  • Resources for separating parents should encourage co-parenting wherever possible, as children do better when both parents are fully involved in their lives.

  • Resources for separating parents should highlight the importance of parents focussing on the best interests of their children, rather than on any conflict between them.

  • Schools and health providers should consider how far their practices and policies lead to exclusion rather than inclusion of both parents. This includes the language they use and their procedures for communicating with both parents who have Parental Rights and Responsibilities on a respectful and inclusive basis. Unless there is a court order of some sort in place restricting communication, no parent should have a veto over communication with the other about their children.


             The important contribution of fathers, mothers, grandparents and the wider family should be promoted wherever possible, in both family policy and wider society.

  • Negative portrayals of fathers as ‘absent’, irresponsible or inadequate care givers still dominate coverage of fatherhood in both mainstream media but also, regrettably, in official publications. The important role of fathers in caring for their children through shared parenting and in separated families should be celebrated during the Scottish Government's “Year of the Dad”.and thereafter.

  • The importance of grandparents and kinship carers should be recognised. Grandparents should have the right to apply directly to courts for children to spend time with them.

  • Employers should better support parents, including non-resident fathers and mothers, to share care where possible, such as flexible working to allow them to drop off or pick up their children from school.


Guide for parents seeking school information

FNF Scotland has published EQUAL PARENTS - a guide to clearing the obstacles to involvement of non-resident parents in their children's education.

This publication covers the relevant legislation and explains the rights that non-resident parents have in situations where they are having problems in getting iinformation from school.

It also includes templates for letters used to contact schools, and suggest that this sort of formal approach is usually the best way to start dealing with the school.

A companion guide for Scottish schools and education authorities will be published in mid 2015.

The guide can be downloaded from the above link.  Please consider making a donation to FNF Scotland if you find this information useful, to enable us to maintain our information services. 

Contact us if you have further questions about school issues or are being prevented from obtaining school information.


Christmas Survival Tips

Christmas can be the loneliest time of the year for some separated parents.

FNF Scotland has published a factsheet with tips for separated parents, the first in a series of Shared Parenting Factsheets.