Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reaction to Review

Not much I can write about Lord Gill's Civil Law Review Report yesterday that has not be written elsewhere but I was relieved to see that the recommendations to introduce McKenzie Friends include a provision that, unlike England & Wales, the McKenzie Friends are not to be entitled to remuneration.

THE most far-reaching reform of Scotland's civil justice system in nearly two centuries has been proposed as part of a landmark review of the country's court system.
Full Article Source The Scotsman
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "A strong and independent legal profession is part of the institutional framework of a modern democracy.

"The legal profession contributes an estimated £1bn in turnover to the Scottish economy annually. This new legislation will help it grow and compete in the UK and internationally."

The new business structures have been branded "Tesco law" in England but Mr MacAskill denies this will be the case in Scotland.

Mike Dailly, principal solicitor at the Govan Law Centre, said: "This Bill seeks to commodify access to justice in Scotland, and in so doing strikes at the heart of justice, the rule of law and the principles of a fair and democratic society."

Full Article
Source The Herald
Ian Smart, President of the Law Society, said: “The Society has been active in driving the debate on alternative business structures (ABSs) and I am very pleased that the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill has been introduced into Parliament.

“The Society believes that Scotland’s legal profession should be able to adapt to best meet the needs of modern society and a global economy. Scots lawyers are well respected around the world and we want to ensure that our members have access to the opportunities that ABSs could present to adopt new practices, to deliver the services their clients expect and develop their businesses in Scotland, as well as elsewhere in the UK and overseas.

 "However it will be vitally important that the Bill ensures the independence of the legal profession, promotes access to justice and maintains robust consumer protections and high standards among those delivering legal services. Effective regulation will be key to any plans for change.”
News Release Source Law Society of Scotland
Scotland’s foremost consumer organisation has welcomed the publication of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill today, Thursday 1 October, as a step forward in widening choice for users of legal services.

Sarah O’Neill, Head of Policy and Solicitor at Consumer Focus Scotland, said: “We have long campaigned for a more open market in legal services in Scotland and the creation of new ways of delivering them. The Legal Services Bill paves the way to open up competition in the market and widen choice for users of legal services.”

Press Release Source Consumer Focus
FORTY YEARS after McKenzie Friends were first introduced in England & Wales, the long awaited Civil Courts Review, undertaken by the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, has finally ended the decades long discrimination against Scottish court users, by recommending the introduction of McKenzie Friends to Scotland as well as a whole range of much needed improvements for Scots access to justice, including the introduction of simplified court procedures, more advice on legal rights, increased use of mediation, and finally and end to the infamous exclusion of Class Action litigation in Scotland’s antiquated civil courts system.
Full Post Source A Diary of Injustice


See also Jonathan Mitchell QC and The Journal

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Civil Courts Review

The Report of the Scottish Civil Courts Review was launched this morning. The review began its work on 2 April 2007 to report on the provision of civil justice by the courts in Scotland, including their structure, jurisdiction, procedures and working methods, having particular regard to;

• the cost of litigation to parties and to the public purse

• the role of mediation and other methods of dispute resolution in relation to court process

• the development of modern methods of communication and case management; and

• the issue of specialisation of courts or procedures, including the relationship between the civil and criminal courts


Picking up on some points from the synopsis that may have some impact on family law;

Key Themes

• The need for a greater degree of judicial specialisation.  Practitioners and 
court users were strongly in favour of a greater degree of specialisation in the sheriff court,principally in family law, commercial law, personal injury, consumer and housing cases.  The current system makes specialisation and judicial continuity difficult to achieve.  

• Party litigants and a new forum or method for dealing with lower value 
cases.  For litigants who do not have legal representation, even those court 
procedures designed with them in mind may be inaccessible.  Respondents 
also noted that party litigants may cause unnecessary expense and delay 
through  unfamiliarity  with  procedures  or  disruptive  behaviour  and  that 
firmer  measures  are  sometimes  required  to  deal  with  those  who  pursue 
claims without merit or behave unreasonably.  
 
• Problems relating to the cost and funding of litigation.  Respondents drew 
attention  to  the  cost  of  litigation  and  observed  that  only  those  with 
considerable wealth or who are eligible for legal aid can afford to litigate.  
There were concerns about the shortfall between what clients have to pay 
their legal advisers and what they can recover in expenses from the other 
party,  and  also  about  the  taxation  of  judicial  accounts. 
 
Recommendations

Structure of civil court system
• A system should be introduced whereby a number of sheriffs in each sheriffdom should be are designated as specialists in particular areas of practice, including solmen crime, general civil, personal injury, family and commercial.

A new case management model
• [New] District judges new will have jurisdiction to hear housing actions, actions for payment of £5,000 or less, and referrals and appeals from children’s hearings, and concurrent jurisdiction with sheriffs in family actions.

•In the sheriff court actions will be transferred to a court in which a sheriff with the relevant specialism is resident. Procedural business will be conducted by email, telephone, video conferencing or in writing.

Mediation and other forms of dispute resolution

• The Report recognises the value of Alternative Dispute Resolution ....

Access to justice for party litigants
•There are recommendations for the promotion of public legal education , improved online provision of information for members of the
public the development of in‐court advice services nd the rights of lay representatives (or ‘McKenzie friends’) of party litigants

Civil Courts Review Source Scottish Courts

See also Scottish Parliament Information Centre research briefing.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Book & Blawg

For anyone representing themselves in England & Wales the book Do Your Own Divorce by John Bolch of Family Lore is now in print. As part of the Insite Law Magazine free online resources project, the first chapter An Introduction to Family Law has now gone up.

Meanwhile as Scottish Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill, is facing a little bother with the Americans over his decision to free the Lockerbie bomber Lucy Reed of Pink Tape is hosting transatlantic Blawg Review #226.

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McKenzie Friend Petition: Recent Submissions

The Scottish Parliament's Petition Committee has recently received submissions for Petition 1247 from Consumer Focus Scotland, the Civil Justice Committee of the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates and Ian Hanger QC (the original McKenzie Friend) for Petition 1247. Petition 1247, coincidentally by Stewart Mackenzie,   calls for the introduction of a McKenzie Friend facility in the Scottish Courts. A McKenzie Friend being someone in England & Wales (and some other jurisdictions) who provides a litigant in person with support, covering tasks such as taking notes, providing moral support and giving them advice as to how to pursue the case. This can include giving advice in court, for example in terms of questions to ask or procedures to be followed.

The Civil Justice Committee of the Law Society of Scotland said it does not see a 'strong driving requirement' for the introduction of a Mackenzie friend facility in the Scottish courts as the current system allows a judge to consider whether or not it is appropriate for a litigant to have the assistance of a lay representative on a case by case basis.

Ian Hanger QC, writes the Australian experience has been that it has worked successfully and urges the Scottish Parliament to permit the appearance of the McKenzie Friend. He also states that McKenzie Friends should not be entitled to charge any fee for services and to do so, in Australia, would be breaching the Legal Services Acts. This certainly is not the case in England & Wales where some McKenzie Friends do charge a fee.

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Holidays & Fairs

Due to holidays, weddings, BBQs, Festivals etc and a get fit campaign I have neglected my blog and emails for the last 6 weeks or so. Sorry, it's a bit late now for this year but Nick Woodall of the Centre For Separated Families sent me a link to a mailing offering separated parents tips on coping with the summer holidays. It's worth a read and bearing in mind for the next school holiday.

Also Suzy Miller of the Starting Over Show has left a comment on this post and the next Starting Over Show which focuses on starting over and rebuilding healthy lives after divorce will be in London on 7 March and Brighton 28 March 2010. This will provide an opportunity to get free legal, financial and life coaching advice.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Brandon Muir: Government Press Release

Following on from the previous post Scottish Children's Minister Adam Ingram has requested that copies of the reviews on the death of Brandon Muir are circulated to all of Scotland’s child protection committees to ensure that the recommendations and lessons were shared with all child protection agencies and staff. Calls for the Scottish Government to legislate to ensure that more children are taken into care, and sooner, to prevent them being put at risk were rejected by Mr Ingram. Legislating for every eventuality would be an impossible task he said.

Scottish Government Ministers also announced that:

* All national recommendations from today's reports will be taken forward as part of the national review of child protection guidance which is already underway and which will be published next year

* A new national child protection co-ordinator is to be appointed to work with the country's 30 child protection committees to drive up standards of care and support for vulnerable children. The expert will be tasked with working with local authorities to implement and embed best practice on child protection, building stronger local professional networks and improving joint working between areas

* The UK's first hub of child protection expertise - the Multi-Agency Resource Service (MARS) - has now begun its work at the University of Stirling, helping Scottish local authorities and their partners work through complex child protection cases and provide enhanced support for professionals in this field to better safeguard the needs of children at risk

* The Scottish Government is in the process of establishing a new national Modernising Community Nursing Board to support NHS Boards in improving the quality of community nursing services. This will help address the national recommendation relating to community nursing

Full Press Release Source Scottish Government 19 August 2009

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Brandon Muir: Independent Review

An independent review into the death of Dundee toddler Brandon Muir released yesterday has identified weaknesses in the way the authorities attempted to safeguard him from harm. The two-part review consisted of an independent inquiry into the events leading up to Brandon’s death, conducted by former Chief Constable of Fife Constabulary Peter Wilson, and a significant case review undertaken by independent social work consultant Jimmy Hawthorn.

Key points in the final days of Brandon;

• Brandon Muir and his sibling had been living with their mother at the home of her parents in Charleston for almost four months up until the point when Heather Boyd established a relationship with Robert Cunningham and moved back with him to her flat in Douglas. She removed Brandon from her parents’ home to live with her and Cunningham on 26 February and his sibling on 1 March 2008.

• The grandparents immediately raised their concerns with Social Work.

• Social Workers who had a previous knowledge of Heather and her children through her office appointment in November 2007 and her attendance at the Family Support Centre, became concerned about her change of attitude, and convened an urgent meeting of child protection partners. (28th February 2008)

• The meeting concluded that an urgent case conference should be convened (set for 18th March 2008), but that there were no immediate grounds for removing the children at that time. There were a number of contacts and visits to the family by social work and health professionals in the intervening period, and Brandon was voluntarily brought by his mother to have his gait checked by the family GP. No significant medical concerns were identified or recorded.

• Brandon Muir died on 16th March 2008 following a violent assault by Robert Cunningham.

• The Review concludes that the assault on Brandon Muir by Robert Cunningham which proved to be fatal, could not have been predicted, and that in the short period when Brandon was living with his mother and Robert Cunningham there was little opportunity for the authorities to prevent the fatal assault on Brandon.

• Although it later became known that H had been taking drugs and had been involved in prostitution, this had never come to the attention of any of the agencies she was involved with.

The Review found that professionals involved had quickly responded to the emerging risk to the family as it was known, and had initiated appropriate steps to consider their needs. However, it was revealed that there were a number of factors affecting the leadership, resourcing, and practice of child protection in Dundee at that time. Some of these matters were identified and addressed as a result of early internal review work, others have been identified and addressed in consequence of the Joint Inspection of Child Protection in Dundee. A number of recommendations and observations were made aimed at further strengthening the child protection arrangements.

Full Review (pdf) Source Dundee Children and Young Persons Protection Committee 19 August 2009

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Views and Experiences of Civil Sheriff Court Users

A small scale study commissioned by Consumer Focus Scotland and the Scottish Legal Aid Board shows court users can find themselves believing what’s to come is going to be far worse than it turns out to be. The research was limited by difficulties involved in identifying and accessing court users, with the researchers warning the eventual sample of litigants cannot be said to be typical of the population of unrepresented litigants currently pursuing cases through the courts.

The interviews undertaken by Ipsos MORI with litigants covered:

* Accessing civil justice
* Appearing in court
* Fairness of process
* Self-representation
* Information provision
* Court staff
* In-court advice services
* Cost of litigation
* Timescales

The study points to an urgent need for better information for the public, and wider access to support services in all courts. Whilst the scope of the research was limited it highlights where knowledge gaps exist and where there are
possibilities for further research. None of those interviewed had experienced ordinary cause procedure, and considering that these cases are likely to be more complicated, with no standard forms available to help unrepresented litigants, there is good reason for ensuring this group is included in future studies.

The findings of the study are being submitted to the Civil Courts review being led by Lord Gill, and to the Scottish Government. Consumer Focus Scotland is also submitting its written evidence to the Public Petitions committee of the Scottish Parliament on the introduction of McKenzie Friends to assist unrepresented litigants

Press Release Source Consumer Focus Scotland 30 July 2009

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Mothers Want to Work Less

The Department for Children, Schools and Families have commissioned another study by the National Centre for Social Research providing detailed information about mothers' experiences of, and attitudes towards working.

64% of mothers are in employment with more than a quarter working full-time but according The Scotsman most women want to work less or quit their job to look after children. 65 % say they have to work because they need the money.

Somewhere else it was reported that the research found women with partners work more than single mothers. That doesn't surprise me if they are doing the majority of child care on their own.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Getting Married in Style



With a nod to my friend, Simon.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Money Box 2

There was another set of interesting questions about divorce and separation on BBC Radio 4's Money Box today. This time the topics covered included pensions, 'aliment', parents' financial responsibility towards over 18s in education and jurisdiction. I couldn't help feeling sorry for one caller from Milton Keynes who had cohabited for 17 years, raised her partner's children and had no financial interest in any assets. In Scotland she would have been able to make a claim based on the disadvantage suffered from giving up employment to care for the children but of course in England cohabitants still have no rights.

The panel of experts were Liz Welsh, Chair, Scottish Family Law Association, Janet Tresman, Consultant, Piper Smith Watton and Simon Piggot, Partner, Levison, Meltzer, Piggot and the podcast is available here. There is also a list of useful internet links and helplines here.

Read more...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Couples Who Cohabit Before Engagement Are More Likely to Divorce

Research from Denver University appearing in the Journal of Family Psychology has found that couples who live together before they are married have a higher chance of getting divorced than those who wait until they are married to live together, or at least wait until they are engaged. In addition, couples who lived together before engagement and then married, reported a lower satisfaction in their marriages.

Participants in the study were aged 18 to 34 and had been married ten years or less.

Of those who cohabited before getting engaged, around 20 per cent had since suggested divorce, compared with 12 per cent who moved in after getting engaged and 10 per cent who did not cohabit before marriage.

About 40 per cent reported they did not live together before marriage; 43 per cent did before engagement; and about 16 per cent cohabited only after getting engaged.

Article Source The Scotsman 16 July 2009

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Royal Assent for Sexual Offences Bill


The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill yesterday received Royal Assent. The Bill replaces a complex mix of common law and statute with a clear legal framework that supports wider work to improve the justice system's response to sex crime.

The new legislation will:

* Provide for the first time a statutory definition of consent, as "free agreement", enshrined in the law

* Replace the common-law offence of rape with a broader statutory offence (which includes male rape)

* Introduce new statutory crimes, including specific offences of sexual assault by penetration and of voyeurism, and others targeting coercive sexual conduct such as the sending of sexually offensive emails or texts, and sexual exposure

* Enable Scottish law enforcement agencies to pursue anyone from Scotland who commits a sex crime under Scots law against someone under-18 abroad (including child pornography and child prostitution offences) regardless of the law in that country

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said ".. this Bill is simply one part of a wider package of measures that Government is taking forward to improve public safety and help victims - steps such as taking forward the recommendations from the Crown Office review of the investigation and prosecution of rape and sexual assault, and our support for Rape Crisis Scotland's campaign work."

Press Release Source The Scottish Government 15 July 2009

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Court Closures: No Decision

Apparently the Scottish Government has said there are no plans to close any sheriff's courts and the leaked Scottish Court Service Strategic Board document proposing cuts of up to a third of Scottish courts in this post yesterday was the worse case scenario. Alan McCreadie, Secretary of the Law Society of Scotland’s Criminal Law Committee was quoted in The Journal today saying he Law Society would expect to be consulted on changes to the court system and access to local courts must be maintained.

Article
Source The Journal 16 July 2009

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One Third of Scottish Courts Could Close

As if it doesn't take long enough to divorce a report prepared for the Scottish Court Service Strategic Board and leaked to The Herald contains radical proposals to close 19 of Scotland's 53 court buildings requiring 3400 sitting days to be accommodated in the remaining courts. This would be achieved partly through increasing the use of larger courts and partly through the introduction of "mobile facilities" covering the southwest and northeast of Scotland. The proposals would mean that waiting times between first calling and trial would increase in the range of 13 to 31 weeks and the non-replacement of some judges and sheriffs when they reach the mandatory retiring age. The measures are being considered following the Government's instruction to all its departments to illustrate a 5% reduction in their budgets.

A Scottish Government spokesman said he would not comment on the specifics of a leaded document. However, as a result of the £500 million cuts to Scotland's budget announced by the Chancellor as part of the UK Government's Budget, all public sector agencies were looking at what savings can be made and examining possible options, he said.

Article Source The Herald 15 July 2009

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

SLCC Research

Further to my post in May yesterday the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission published research into the Law Society of Scotland's client negligence and compensation schemes, known as Master Policy and Guarantee Fund. The researchers say the study must be seen as preliminary given the short timescale and resources available. It had not been possible to find a representative sample of claimants with experience of the Master Policy as interviews were restricted to 11 claimants who approached the researchers. However, representatives of consumer bodies in addition to solicitors and representatives of the profession were interviewed.

Solicitors see the Master Policy as simply a professional negligence insurance designed to protect individual members of the profession. Claimants on the other hand think its primary purpose should be to protect the public against incompetent members of the legal profession and were very much of the opinion that it was difficult to establish liability of a solicitor for professional negligence. The report found the Law Society of Scotland of Scotland raises the expectations of potential claimants by emphasising the Master Policy’s public protection role but in practice the Master Policy is more inclined towards protection of the legal profession.

Data which would have allowed researchers to look at the record of the Master Policy in terms of claims and compensation paid was requested from the Law Society of Scotland but was only made available the day before the Report was due to be submitted. Furthermore the Law Society of Scotland and the broker, Marsh, put conditions on the use of the data in this study which were unacceptable to the researchers and to the Chief Executive of SLCC. The limited data researchers saw on the Guarantee Fund suggests that there is a considerable difference between the value of claims and the sums paid out by the Fund.

The report recommends that the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission undertake a longer term research project which will allow researchers to examine the experiences of a representative sample of claimants and solicitors as well as analyse data on claims provided by the Master Policy’s broker under reasonable conditions of use.

Full Report Source Scottish Legal Complaints Commission 13 July 2009

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Proposed Overhaul of Family Law

Today a major new report "Every Family Matters" was published by the Centre for Social Justice, the think-tank set up by the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, which has had a major bearing on David Cameron’s social policy-making. The report claims the recommendations are a "far-reaching overhaul of the law [in England & Wales] aimed at putting marriage at the heart of family life." Key points include;

Divorce
▪ Discussing no-fault divorce is a low priority in contrast to other family law reforms.

▪ Creation of a three month period of reflection and consideration at the outset of the divorce process, which would now be commenced only by a short written notice without any allegations.

▪ Parties should be able to petition jointly under existing law Decree absolute of divorce should be capable of being applied for after four weeks from the decree nisi, instead of the present time periods.

Cohabitation

▪ For the different reasons, we do not consider that it is appropriate to make any proposals for cohabitation law reform at this time.

▪ We oppose the present Private Members’ Bill on the basis that it provides very similar rights to marriage.

Information Provision
▪ There should be information provision before the commencement of family law proceedings.

Alternative Dispute Resolution
▪ Binding family law arbitration should be introduced.

▪ There should be mandatory attempts at resolution of children disputes before the issue of proceedings.

Legal Aid
▪ Government should clearly place on record that access to justice, like education, health care and other front-line services, is an essential facet of any civilised society.

▪ The legal aid system must attract and retain specialist practitioners in all areas of family law.

Contact
▪ An amendment to the Children Act 1989 to include explicit principles of contact and residence, incorporating equal status of those with parental responsibility and the benefit to the children of both parents having a significant involvement in their lives, with the welfare of the child remaining the paramount consideration.

Relocation
▪ A change in the law regarding relocation such that an amendment to the Children Act would apply in such cases, to take better account of the changed patterns of parenting, the considerable impact on the child of relocation away from home and other home environment features and wider family members, yet taking account of the increased movement of families.

Grandparents
▪ Grandparents should be placed in a distinctive legal position.

Ancillary Relief
▪ Marital assets are all assets acquired by the parties solely or jointly during the marriage and any pre-marital cohabitation whether through passive growth or active acquisition.

▪ In conducting its fairness exercise on distribution of marital assets and non-marital assets, the court shall follow as binding any marital agreement of the parties.

▪ The marital assets, including illiquid assets, shall be divided equally between the spouses unless there is a good reason not to do so.

▪ The family courts shall have power to make child maintenance orders where both parties are not in receipt of or claiming welfare benefits and the court is making other orders between them concerning income or capital and in any event where are arrears of more than 6 months.

▪ Spousal maintenance shall continue to end automatically on remarriage but should be reduced to a nominal maintenance order after periods of six months’ cohabitation.

Full Report Source Centre for Social Justice 14 July 2009

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Greenock Solicitors Suspended

Earlier the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal reprimanded Duncan Hugh Drummond and David Richard Blair Lyons, partners of Messrs Lyons Laing & Co, Solicitors, Greenock and fined them the sum of £10,000 each. The Tribunal found both solicitors guilty of professional misconduct in respect of breaches of the Law Society's accounts rules, their failure to "timeously stamp and record" See this article in the Law Society's Journal.

According to the Greenock Telegraph (thanks to Absolvitor for the lead) after further inspection a judicial factor was appointed and now the firm’s two partners have been suspended. Clients of Lyons Laing with concerns are told they should contact the judicial factor’s staff on 0141 353 1422 or the Law Society of Scotland on 0131 266 7411.

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Risk Adverse Parents Fail Their Children

The head teacher of an independent school in Scotland is quoted in The Scotsman today as saying parents have become risk adverse. "Childhood has never been risk-free. But if we succumb to our fears, our children may end up ill-equipped to live successfully in adulthood." Rod Grant, of Clifton Hall independent school says.

I think this particularly applies to children of separated families when parents engage in battles damaging the child's view of relationships with the opposite sex. How many times do we hear of anxieties about the standard of care the children receive from the other parent when it was never questioned before the family breakdown? Sometimes it might be alcoholism or the misuse of drugs, other times there are concerns that a parent is inexperienced or it is unsuitable to introduce a new partner. There may be an element of truth in these allegations but in all but the most exceptional cases the potential for damaging children from parental conflict is far greater.

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Postcode Lottery Leaves Carers in Poverty

Thousands of grandparents who become family carers are the victims of a postcode lottery in the allowances they receive.

A special report by The Herald reveals that in some local authorities "kinship carers" are receiving little or no money to help them, while those in other council areas receive £200 a week.

These carers are usually grandparents or other relatives who step in to look after children whose parents are unable to cope because of addiction or other health problems. They remove children from the care system, saving the taxpayer millions.

Full article Source The Herald July 2009

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Divorce and Dementia

Middle-aged people who are widowed or divorced are three times more likely to develop dementia in later life than those who are married or cohabiting, according to a new study.

It found that people aged around 50 who live alone have twice the risk of going on to be diagnosed with dementia by the time they are between the ages of 65 and 79.

The risk for those who are widowed or divorced is particularly high and the researchers said that "supportive intervention for individuals who have lost a partner might be a promising strategy in preventive health care".

Alzheimer Scotland said the findings, from a study carried out by researchers in Finland and Sweden, highlighted the importance of staying "socially connected" to help reduce the risk of developing dementia.


Full article Source The Herald 2 July 2009

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different

Today Scotland is celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the official opening of the Scottish Parliament and to mark the occasion I have compiled a list of significant historical events that took place on 1st July.

Birthdays
1646 – Gottfried Leibniz, German mathematician (d. 1716)
1899 – Charles Laughton, English actor (d. 1962)
1903 – Amy Johnson, English pilot (d. 1941)
1961 – Diana, Princess of Wales (d. 1997)

Deaths
2004 – Marlon Brando, American actor (b. 1924)
2006 – Fred Trueman, English cricketer (b. 1931)


Events
1690 – Glorious Revolution: Battle of the Boyne
1863 – American Civil War: The Battle of Gettysburg begins
1916 – World War I: First day on the Somme
1942 – World War II: First Battle of El Alamein
1963 – Kim Philby confirmed as "the third man"
1967 – The European Community is formally created
1997 - Hong Kong handed over to Chinese control...

2009 - Glasgow City Council lift the 30 year ban on the film Life of Brian



Sources Wikipedia and The Herald

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bloggers Guide

Many people do not seem to realise they have a duty to use information given in court proceedings for the purposes of the proceedings only and there are restrictions on disclosing information. When the rules don't allow it disclosing information contravenes Article 6, Human Rights Act 1998, the right to a fair hearing, and if children are involved their rights to privacy and anonymity.


Lucy Reed of Pink Tape has now compiled a useful list of ten things bloggers should know when writing about family proceedings.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Lawyers: Fixed Fees

In his blog post this morning Andrew Woolley of Family-Lawfirm argues in favour of divorce lawyers charging fixed fees and the Law Society in England & Wales banning hourly charging. The problem is it is not always possible for solicitors to gauge how long a case will last and the amount of time they will need to put in so Andrew suggests taking an average or setting a limit.

I do not know how feasible setting a limit is, but surely taking the average means clients whose divorce is straightforward pay for the work done on more complicated cases.

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Sharia Rulings 'Inappropriate'


Sharia courts should not be recognised under Britain's 1996 Arbitration Act, according to a new report from independent think-tank Civitas.


According to Denis MacEoin, author of Sharia Law or 'One Law For All'?, sharia courts operating in Britain may be handing down rulings that are inappropriate to this country because they are linked to elements in Islamic law that are seriously out of step with trends in Western legislation that derive from the values of the Enlightenment and are inherent in modern codes of human rights. Sharia rulings contain great potential for controversy and may involve acts contrary to UK legal norms and human rights legislation.


Full press release Source Civitas 29 June 2009

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Warning for Cheaters

Next time you play away, just think who might be watching ... The world and his wife, thats who!

Usually I don't read the blogs on the site Wikivorce because I find them too depressing, but I caught sight of this one from a private investigator about footage his firm provided which found it's way on to YouTube.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

SLAB Ordered to Pay Defendant's Costs

Apparently the Scottish Legal Aid Board have been ordered to pay a man's legal cost for defending court actions paid for by the Board. After William Bohannon separated from his partner he tried to get her to pay a personal bond of £50k he had loaned to her. His ex-partner refused, was sequestrated and then raised actions in the Court of Session in Edinburgh seeking to recall the sequestration and have the personal bond set aside. Carol Ballard, or Young as she is now after marriage, was granted legal aid to fund her actions but both actions failed.

Mr Bohannon successfully defended the actions, but was left with lawyers' bills of more than £33,500 and asked the Court to find the legal aid board liable for his expenses in the action. To clarify, when assessing someone's eligibility for legal aid SLAB must follow rules set down in law by Parliament so there needs to be a legal basis for a case as well as it being reasonable in the particular circumstances to award legal aid. The solicitors acting for William Bohannon had repeatedly raised with SLAB there were problems and asked that legal aid granted to Carol Young be suspended.

Lord Brodie said "The board has not chosen to defend its conduct in the matter" and he was satisfied that Mr Bohannon would suffer financial hardship if no order was made.

Full article Source The Herald 27 June 2009

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Backwards Britain

Interesting comment by Johann Hari today about why the Tories' policy to mend "Britain's broken society" is a backwards step. The policy relies heavily on sociological research findings that children from broken homes or single parent families are more likely to have poor educational and behavioural outcomes than children whose parents stay together. However, a new study by Professor Kelly Musick and Dr Ann Meier of Cornell University into children whose parents stay together in disharmony for the sake of the children has shown the children do worse than any other group. Thus the Tories' policies to keep families together would actually increase the numbers of children in the worst performing category.

At the same time David Cameron is committed to pulling Britain out of the European Social Chapter which means rights for part-time workers will be eroded, leading to lots of stressed out parents having less time to spend with their children. Also the Married Couples Allowance would be a big redistribution of wealth to people who don't need it, paid for by cutting Tax Credits to SureStart to the Educational Maintenance Allowance to the poorest people who do.

Full article Source The Independent 26 June 2009

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

At-risk Children Left in Danger

On Tuesday a report by HM Inspectorate of Education on Dundee's children's services brought forward after the killing of toddler Brandon Muir says child protection there was unsatisfactory. Social workers had been alerted to concerns over Brandon before he was killed by his mother's drug addict boyfriend, Robert Cunningham, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The damning report highlighted the failures of the Council, the police, heath services and court officials in Dundee to protect vulnerable children from "significant harm" in the homes of drug addicts and alcoholics.

Full article Source The Scotsman 24 June 2009

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Privacy and the Family Courts

After thousands of family court hearings that previously would have taken place in private in England & Wales were opened to the media in April following lobbying from fathers’ groups, campaigners and the media, the Earl of Spence and his wife Caroline are seeking injunctions on press coverage. Mr Justice Munby earlier rejected requests to ban the press from their divorce hearing saying it was a new public policy that the media be allowed to attend family hearings unless proper grounds could be shown to exclude them.

Full story
Source The Times 24 June 2009

Update: The Earl of Spence and his wife Caroline decided to resolve the issues without the aid of the judge. Details of their final settlement will not be made public.

Report Source The Telegraph 24 June 2009

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bitterness on 'Divorce Website'

Liz Jones has written a scathing attack on the Wikivorce website in her Daily Mail report "How warring husbands and wives are pouring out bitterness on new 'divorce website" this morning. She makes very valid points about the dubious benefits to venting and that websites are no substitute for counsellors or lawyers. However, I am somewhat bemused by one comment that Wikivorce is seething with so many stories about men who end up in a council flat. As a regular visitor to the forums I am only aware of one man who ended up in a council flat.

In the article Liz Jones contends that "instead of a site telling you how to arm yourself both in emotional and legal terms, there should be a site which makes sure you actually want to get married in the first place."

"You should have to be counselled, extensively, before you are allowed to shuffle down that aisle and conceive that poor blameless child who will have to face the arguments and witness the mud slinging."

Actually if nothing else Wikivorce demonstrates that married couples should try to resolve their problems because they do not just disappear on divorce, particularly when there is a lifetime of parenting ahead.


Full story Source The Daily Mail 23 June 2009

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Monday, June 22, 2009

News Roundup 4

The news is rather quite on the divorce front in Scotland at the moment but there are several recent interesting stories from south of the border.

Divorce settlement granted after 22 years

A woman has won £220,000 in a ground-breaking divorce settlement — 22 years after separating from her husband.

They were married only four years before they split up but they never formally divorced.

The woman, who is in her fifties and lives in West London, was prompted to bring her claim after learning that her husband had secured a windfall by inheriting some money.
Full report Source The Times 13 June 2009
Judge calls for action to stop British 'epidemic' of family breakdown


A national commission should be created to tackle Britain’s “epidemic” of family breakdown, a senior judge said yesterday.

Mr Justice Coleridge, a Family Division judge, said that the commission should establish marriage as the “gold standard” for relationships and put an end to the constant games of “musical relationships” or “pass the partner”, which can scar children for life.
Full story Source The Times 17 June 2009


History-making divorcee Julia McFarlane is awarded an extra £100,000 a year

A divorcing wife who made legal history when the law lords awarded her a £250,000-a-year payout from her husband has won a 40 per cent increase in her maintenance payments.

Julia McFarlane, 49, who separated from her husband Kenneth in 2000, will receive £350,000 a year although her needs have been put at £150,000.
Full story Source The Times 20 June 2009

Tycoon Scot Young faces jail in £400m divorce

A secretive tycoon at the centre of one of Britain’s biggest divorce cases is facing jail over the whereabouts of his £400m fortune.

Scot Young, a “fixer” to Russian oligarchs and British billionaires, has been told that he could be imprisoned for failing to tell a High Court judge where his money has gone...........

The judge has ordered that Young’s passport be seized to stop him fleeing the country. “There is a real risk that he will leave the jurisdiction and not be seen again,” Mr Justice Charles told a hearing at the High Court last week.
Full story Source The Times 21 June 2009

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Public Petitions Blog


New social media has been introduced by the Public Petitions Committee at the Scottish Parliament, as part of the petitions process. The public petitions process is a key part of the Scottish Parliament's commitment to participation, openness and accessibility. It allows individuals, community groups and organisations to raise issues of concern with the Parliament and now petitioners will be able to provide videos and photos about their petitions as part of the committee’s new blog page.

Past petitions include;

PE589 Mr George McAulay, on behalf of the UK Men's Movement.

Petition calling for the Scottish Parliament to take the necessary steps to recognise Parental Alienation Syndrome and to develop early intervention strategies to prevent parental alienation.


PE624 Ms Ann Mallaby, on behalf of the Women's Land Reform Group

Petition calling for the Scottish Parliament to take the necessary steps to introduce new legislation into matrimonial law to address the alleged violation of women's land rights and farm business in cases of divorce.


PE944 Gary Strachan

Petition calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Executive to (a) investigate why there is no presumption of equal access/residence for children with both parents after separation in Scottish law; (b) investigate bias against fathers as equal parents in the Scottish Court System; (c) investigate why contact orders are not enforced and (d) investigate why parental responsibilities and rights are ignored by the medical, welfare and governmental institutions to the detriment of children


PE997 Peter Cox, on behalf of the Mothers for Justice Campaign

Petition calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Executive to provide greater protection to the children and partners of abusive parents by introducing legislation to ensure that (a) where an allegation of abuse has been made against a parent, access rights are suspended pending a full investigation; (b) all previous convictions of an abusive parent are taken into account before access rights are granted; (c) all access hearings are held in open court; and (d) all sheriffs who deal with child custody cases are given appropriate training.


PE1051 Jimmy Deuchars, on behalf of Grandparents Apart Self Help Group Scotland

Petition calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Executive to make the Charter for Grandchildren legally binding ensuring that the rights of children are recognised by all public agencies and families, and enforced by law.


PE1247
Stewart Mackenzie

Open petition calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to introduce a McKenzie Friend facility in Scottish courts as a matter of urgency. (See this earlier post)

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Never A Dull Day

Whilst browsing I came across a fairy tale.

It was a long, long time ago, that Princess Fiona, then aged 30 years, met her true love. Her champion, who was but five years her elder, had secured her release from a dreadful ordeal that was imprisonment, in a far, far away tower. His name was Shrek.

Within weeks the happy couple cohabited, initially in a modest swamp dwelling. Shrek was then a humble apothecary, but he sought greatness. Fame and fortune did indeed await him.

Shrek toiled for many years, seeking the elusive elixir. In 1998, after ten years of blissful cohabitation, the couple married. They purchased the matrimonial home, Yew Tree Cottage, for £100,000, with a 90% mortgage. However, at the turn of the following year, Shrek found his fortune. On the eve of Millennium, Shrek discovered and then sold to Never Never Inc. a sole manufacture and distribution licence for his Happy Ever After potion. The sale raised £3 million, together with an annual licence fee of £100,000. The couple purchased a more palatial property for £1 million cash. Shrek retained the remaining capital and his income.

Shrek grew tired of the marriage. In 2002 he met Darla, an Australian beauty, and his indiscretion soon led to irretrievable breakdown.

Princess Fiona, now aged 46 years, issued a divorce petition against Shrek, now aged 51 years. Ancillary relief has been claimed.

Shrek, who now that he has money, has reverted to type, seeks your advice upon the following issues:

1. Surely this is a short marriage case and Princess Fiona will not get much?

2. If I am wrong, must she get half?

3. What reasons are there to depart from equality?

4. If she is going to get substantial relief, I'll move to the Australian outback and she’ll have to find me.

5. Can I run the millionaire’s defence?

6. I am about to be sued by a Swiss financial institution for £½ million – is that relevant?

7. I want a clean break but I can't afford it. Please advise upon Fiona’s maintenance claim.


A link to the article in Word format is available below but it would be interesting to know what a Scottish lawyer would make of it as the points of law and outcome would be very different.

Full article Source Zenith Chambers

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Boom or Bust

The accountancy firm Grant Thornton has recently published it's sixth annual survey of "the UK's leading law firms" specialising in family law. I have downloaded the report as a pdf but cannot now find the address, grr... The survey of matrimonial lawyers makes interesting reading and I have highlighted some of the figures below;

• 48%, of respondents predicted a fall in the number of couples filing for divorce in the English and Welsh Courts due to the economic slowdown

• women filed for divorce in 91% of cases and in all but 3% of cases, the divorces are not contested

• 23% of lawyers believe that the number of divorces will stay at the same level as the previous year

• lawyers supporting collaborative law has fallen to 81% from 89%. However, the number of respondents trained as collaborative lawyers has increased to 50%, up 2%

• the total family assets for distribution in a divorce, dealt with by the respondents, fell from £2.85 million in 2007 to under £1.5 million this year

• 65% of respondents predict there will be a fall in lump sum financial agreements and an increase in maintenance based settlement

• 59% of lawyers surveyed advise on pre-nups more than other types of agreement

• 52% of respondents predict that there will be an increase in pre and post nuptial agreements due to the economic slowdown

• 82% of solicitors felt that pre-nups should be a factor considered by the Courts. This compares to 18% of respondents considering that they should be legally binding, down from 56% in 2007

• lawyers are increasingly concerned about the treatment of cohabiting couples, 45% called for a change in legislation.

• 19% of respondents have had instances of cases involving concealed assets over the last twelve months it has been more common for the concealment to be an action of the husband (91% of the cases). This year there were no cases (2% in 2007) of the concealment resulting from the actions of a wife

• 85% of respondents, had dealt with cases which had international elements

• The jurisdiction thought by 98% of respondents to most favour the wife (in terms of financial settlement) continues to be England and Wales. Whilst Scotland continues to be cited as the most favourable jurisdiction for husbands (30% of respondents in 2008)


Press release
Source Grant Thornton

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Family Lore Blawg Review

John Bolch, aka King John, of Family Lore has been very busy indeed writing this Blawg Review which has taken me the best part of a day to read as I kept going off on a tangent following the links to matters as diverse as freedom of the press, the Tolpuddle Martyrs and a lawyer charged with billing during sex. It is a shame work kept getting in the way.

I'm not sure I really count as a blawger but having been included makes me feel much less out on a limb.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Rape Victim Found Dead

The Firm reports Ann Robertson, the woman who fled from the witness stand during cross examination about her previous relationship in a rape case and was imprisoned, has been found dead. Later Scotland's most senior judge investigated and upheld a complaint about her treatment.

See my earlier posts Restrictive Rape Laws and Ann Robertson's Complaint Upheld.

The cause of death is unknown at this time.

Full article Source The Firm 12 June 2009

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Silver Divorces

According to The Independent a recent survey by the equity release trade body showed that 13,678 couples over 60 got divorced last year, a 49 per cent increase since the 1980s. Marilyn Stowe says: "The problem is there are only limited assets and funds in the majority of cases and you simply can't stretch those assets to attain the same standard of living as the couple may have previously enjoyed."

The current financial climate adds particular complications to dividing assets for those divorcing late in life;

• the sale price that reflects what the property was worth until recently is potentially unachievable

• the option of equity release if one party wishes to stay in the home can lead to a reduced payout.

• with a weak stock market it is not a good time to liquidate stocks and shares and the knock-on effect is a reduction in retirement capital

• fewer than 1 in 10 divorces involve an element of pension sharing and often, wives are left disadvantaged

• for a state pension, divorced couples will have to revert from the married state pension allowance back to the individual state pension allowance.

Full article Source The Independent 14 June 2009

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Rape Not Proven

After a four-day trial at the High Court in Inverness rape charges against a Portuguese man were found not proven by a majority verdict. Djarga Balde, 24, was accused of of raping three women in Buckie and Elgin between 2005 and 2008.

Full story Source The Scotsman 12 June 2009

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Things Are Not Always As They Seem






More observant readers may have noticed I changed the photograph in the header of my blog a week or so ago. The old photograph was very atmospheric but rather grey and dismal.


I thought it would be more appropriate to feature the sun and to avoid any copyright issues I cropped one of my daughter's photographs. Since then a number of people have emailed to ask where it was taken and I'm afraid to disappoint, but it wasn't in Scotland.

The photograph is Mitre Point, close to Milford Sound in the southwestern South Island, New Zealand.

The message for divorcing couples is things are not always as they seem and there is a difference in believing something to be true and knowing it is true.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Child Support & Tax Credits

Despite any other failings of the the Child Support Agency I find the website of is generally very good. When the non resident parent has children living in their household their net income is reduced by an allowance before the child maintenance assessment is calculated. Information about what happens if the non-resident parent has other children living with them is on page 15 of the CSA leaflet How is child maintenance worked out? available to download here;


If the non-resident parent pays the basic rate, we will not take
into account:
• 15% of their net weekly income, if there is one child living
with them
• 20% of their net weekly income, if there are 2 children living
with them, or
• 25% of their net weekly income, if there are 3 or more
children living with them.

However one piece of information parents seem to have difficulty accessing is that when the non resident parent has children living in his/her household and he/she earns more than their new partner the household's working family tax credits are added to their net income before the CSA assessment.

The Child Support (Maintenance Calculations and Special Cases) Regulations 2000 set out the position in Rule 11, Part IV TAX CREDITS, Schedule , Statutory Instrument 2001 No. 155;

(2) Where working families' tax credit is payable and the amount which is payable has been calculated by reference to the weekly earnings of the non-resident parent and another person -

(a) where during the period which is used by the Inland Revenue to calculate his income the normal weekly earnings (as determined in accordance with Chapter II of Part IV of the Family Credit (General) Regulations 1987[42]) of that parent exceed those of the other person, the amount payable by way of working families' tax credit shall be treated as the income of that parent;

(b) where during that period the normal weekly earnings of that parent equal those of the other person, half of the amount payable by way of working families' tax credit shall be treated as the income of that parent; and

(c) where during that period the normal weekly earnings of that parent are less than those of that other person, the amount payable by way of working families' tax credit shall not be treated as the income of that parent.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Divorce Advice Warning

Andrew Woolley of Family-Lawfirm warns divorce advice has many traps for the unwary. In my earlier blog post back in January 2008 I wrote self-help groups can be a good source of information, advice, guidance and support but it can be unreliable, or plain wrong, sometimes with disastrous results. My advice to anyone divorcing would always be consult a lawyer early on in the process to find out where you stand and what your options are.

Last week a national newspaper highlighted the advantages of Wikivorce (see this post) in providing advice about the legal process and I think it is important to remember the basis upon which members like me originally registered.

Let me start by saying that Wikivorce is not a replacement for solicitors. Wikivorce is a place you can learn, share and make friends. It is a community of people going through divorce (or recently divorced) who support each other during a very challenging stage in their lives. In fact I believe that Wikivorce can complement the work of solicitors by providing its members with emotional support, but also basic information on the divorce process. This should enable them to work more effectively with their solicitor, to achieve wherever possible an amicable, negotiated out of court settlement.

Ian Rispin, Wikivorce founder commenting on Divorce Solicitor's blog
11 June 2007.

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

No Marriage, No Divorce

If you are planning an exotic wedding abroad the case of Gillian Hudson is a warning to check the ceremony will be valid. The High Court found that although there was a
religious ceremony in South Africa it had been worded in a way that did not comply with marital laws so Gillian wasn't married. As there was no marriage there could be no divorce or financial claims.


Full story
Source The Times

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Contact Non Compliance: 3 Month Sentence

According to The Scotsman a woman has failed in her appeal against a three month sentence she claimed was "harsh and oppressive."
Tina Monem, 26, failed to comply with a contact order to make her child available for six hours contact a week after her allegations against the father were found to be unsubstantiated. The sheriff held her in contempt although it seems sentencing was delayed to see whether new contact arrangements would be successful. A three month sentence was then handed down and the mother was released after a few days pending the appeal.

Three judges in the Court of Session ordered Tina Monem to return to prison to complete the sentence and found she had committed contempt against them too. Lord Gill, the Lord Justice-Clerk, speaking on behalf of the appeal court, said the mother was to be given the opportunity to "reflect on the gravity of her conduct and to desist from it" and sentence for the contempt of the appeal court was deferred for six months.

Full story Source The Scotsman 6 June 2009

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D Day Dodgers


I wasn't born until well after D Day but I'm old enough to remember stories of people who were. This parody was attributed to Major Hamish Henderson of the 51st Highland Division, written after Lady Astor referred to the men of the 8th Army who were fighting in the Italian campaign as the "D-Day Dodgers". She apparently forgot that they had fought their way from Alexandria, Egypt, through Libya to Tunisia, to Sicily and then up the boot of Italy to a summer retreat called Monte Cassino without any relief.

Captain Henderson personally accepted the surrender of Italy from Marshal Graziani in 1945, the first major surrender of an Axis army in the West. On the 65th anniversary of D Day let us not only commemorate the Normandy Landings but also remember the efforts the D Day Dodgers and all those others who contributed to the defeat of fascism.

See more about Hamish in this earlier post.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Scottish Divorce History

The records of the Registrar General for Scotland, held in the National Archives of Scotland, are a source of information on the social history of Scotland, since they deal with everyday life and personal relationships. Scottish Way of Birth and Death is a project at the University of Glasgow's Department of Economic and Social History reviewing a history of civil registration in Scotland from its beginning in 1855 until World War II.

During first 10 years of registration (1855 and 1864) the average number of divorces in Scotland each year was 17. By 1905-14, the figure had increased to an average of 222 per year and an average of 458 divorces per year in 1915-24 were registered, however the numbers were so low they were not included in the General Register Office annual reports until 1920. In 1942 the figure was over 1000 for the first time.

In the 1890s, it was reputed a Scottish divorce could cost as little as £12 and very poor people could claim financial help from the Poor Law authorities if they had a good case against their spouses. The law gave equal rights to both sexes, although in practice most divorce cases were brought by women, except during and after the World Wars.

A law of 1600 barred anyone divorced on grounds of adultery from marrying the third person named in the divorce action. A child born to an adulterous couple would be illegitimate in Scotland, even if they had gone through a form of marriage after the divorce. Apparently even in the later nineteenth century jurisdiction was a problem and English courts refused to recognize the dissolution of marriages made in England but ending in Scotland, unless the couple could prove that they were genuinely living in Scotland.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Online Divorce Sites and Chat Rooms

When we divorced it never crossed my mind to use the internet and it was a few years later when I was looking for a specific piece of information I first stumbled across a divorce online forum. Initially I couldn't make much sense of what people said but through reading others experiences and checking the facts I became little more educated and begun to understand how the systems in England & Wales and Scotland worked. I must confess though, chat rooms are not for me and only once did I inadvertently enter one and made a quick exit. Today the women's section of The Times carries an article about the development and success of Wikivorce which draws on Wikipedia, in that it is up to members to add an interesting resources to the site whenever they find one.

Like tens of thousands of men and women facing divorce, Jane was at her wits’ end when she turned to the internet. There she found wikivorce.com, an online support group for couples facing the end of their marriage. The website, which was launched two years ago and boasts a new visitor every minute, is an online community that offers free access to information, support and advice for people going through divorce or separation.

While online chats about divorce and marriage troubles are multiplying on sites such as mumsnet and ivillage, specialist sites such as ondivorce.co.uk and divorce-online.co.uk, which claims 31,000 members, appear to be proof that divorcing couples are increasingly seeking friendship and advice anonymously and online through chat rooms and the blogosphere. But will these burgeoning internet divorce chat rooms mean an end to acrimonious courtroom battles and the need for professional relationship counsellors?.....


I'm not sure why the article is in the women's section, there are many men who use the site too. In fact I believe at one stage there were more male members than female ones. Ian Rispin, founder of Wikivorce, judged that family law needed an extensive makeover and aims to provide support to people who have no choice other than self represent. Wikivorce has recently launched in Scotland and Australia. However, The Times echos my thoughts about the pitfalls;

Nick Longford, the chairman of Resolution, the organisation that represents 5,700 family lawyers, welcomes the online support groups but warns people to think carefully before attempting to save legal fees and going it alone with the help of a website. Legally, divorce can be very complicated, he says, and although lawyers can cost anything from £150 to £400 an hour, you pay for their experience and emotional support in navigating the treacherous divorce waters. If you go to court, costs can double. If the case reaches a final hearing, they can treble.

“I would hate people to think that this is a panacea and make themselves vulnerable,” he says. “As for selfrepresenting, there is an awful lot of law involved. We need a number of methods so that people can make an informed choice, but it’s not easy and it can be a full-time job.”

Of course, he would say that — as he admits — but he points out that while costs can spiral in court, most of Resolution’s clients manage to sort out their differences through lawyers and do not end up in front of a judge.

Christine Northam, a counsellor with Relate — which is in talks about working alongside Wikivorce and endorsing it as a tool for support in divorce — agrees that chat rooms have their place but insists that they are no substitute for professional advice.

“These sites may help by giving you good emotional support — but they may also mean that you stay stuck in a rut and carry on thinking that all men are bastards, and so on,” she says. “Counselling is about facing what has gone wrong and letting go. By knowing yourself a bit more, you should avoid making the same mistakes again — if you haven’t had counselling you can get sucked into repeating those mistakes.”

Northam also warns users to be aware of the risks attached to using divorce sites. No advice comes without an agenda, she says, be it from your mother, a friend or a newfound wiki mate, so users should consider thoughtfully where the advice they are given is coming from before acting on it.


Full article Source The Times 4 June 2009

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