Friday, September 12, 2008

Family Law Disputes Motion

In support of his motion in the Scottish parliament yesterday MSP Nigel Don (SNP) argued a survey of sheriff clerks’ perspectives on child contact enforcement in Scottish sheriff courts reporting non-compliance with contact involved a negligible proportion of family actions was at odds with the number of constituents he sees where parents find it difficult or impossible to enforce contact orders when the other parent is unco-opertative. He added absent parents could also be at fault.

During the ensuing debate the Scottish Government were criticised for scrapping a pilot and commissioned research into the problem of non-compliance with contact orders mentioned in my earlier post. Contact centres were said to be grim and inadequate. Legal resolution could be a long and expensive process and courts were unwilling to impose penalties.

Further to the difficulties of challenging court assumptions regarding jurisdiction highlighted in the recent case of Mr B there was a call for the early resolution of cross border issues and clear and consistent statute.

Robin Harper (Scottish Green Party) expressed concerns about lack of awareness about the law, in particular for young people under 25. The Community Law Advice Network collates work to make the law more accessible to young people who, according to their research, have less awareness of rights.

There was a general consensus encouraging current moves by Scotland’s legal profession towards collaborative dispute resolution to help divorcing couples reach early agreement and minimise conflict. One MSP thought legal aid should be available for collaborative law. Another reckoned the way for grandparents to maintain relations with children was by resolving disputes between parents whilst someone else warned that often 3rd parties exacerbate the situation and grandparents may compound problems. Domestic violence is not a dispute for resolution There was a call for better legal remedies for the non compliance with contact orders and a suggestion that non compliance should automatically trigger a mediation interview.

Minister of Justice, Kenny MacAskill, ended the debate saying there were relatively few difficult cases and sometimes justice is not served. There were no simple answers and intractable contact problems defy the wisdom of solomon. Sanctions such as prison or fines do not serve the interests of children well.

I have never known MSPs talk so fast and cram so much into their alloted time.

Updated: The official report is available here.


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