Saturday, May 31, 2008


Well it is the weekend, after all.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Parenting Classes

Further to my post Divorce Coaching Christina McGhee, the presenter of Channel 4's How to Divorce Without Screwing up your Kids is lobbying Scottish politicians to replace the current potentially damaging adversarial system of marriage and relationship breakups with parenting classes and family mediation.

According to the Online Journal today Relationships Scotland, formerly know as Family Mediation Scotland (the change must be very recent as this is the first I've heard and there is nothing on the FMS website to indicate there has been a change) would like to see Scotland’s legislators make attendance the norm for parents who are separating.


Solicitors Conduct & Service Standards

Hurray!! The Law Society of Scotland is reviewing solicitors standards of service which are about the service provided by a solicitor and/or the solicitor firm and the standards of conduct, which are about the behaviour of individual solicitors.

The standards of service are to clarify what those using legal services can expect from their solicitor. As part of the review process a questionnaire consultation on the professional standards has been launched and it along with drafts of the standards of service and standards of conduct are here.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Legal Aid

Further to this post about the Glasgow Bar Association voting for industrial action Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announced at the Law Society of Scotland conference in Edinburgh last Friday that there is to be an increase in the level of civil legal aid payments and a new scale of payments for complex family law cases. Although the rise was welcomed there is concern that it might still not be enough to safeguard the future of civil legal aid in Scotland.


Saturday, May 24, 2008


Another article by John Fotheringham, Fyfe Ireland this time about the Scottish rights of cohabitants when the relationship breaks down written for English legal practitioners here at Family Law Week. The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 was introduced in May 2006 and John reports the scheme is working well.

The salient points are;

1) there is no minimum period of cohabitation before either party may seek payment from the other in respect of the economic disadvantage which she/he has suffered as a result of the relationship

2) the amount of the claim will depend on the extent of the economic disadvantage of the pursuer

3) there is no claim to the sole or main residence in which the cohabitants live unless it is already in joint names

4)the claim on separation must be made within 12 months or in the event of intestate death within 6 months


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sharia in Scotland

John Fotheringham of Fyfe Ireland LLP, Edinburgh and Glasgow has written a well balanced and informative article about Sharia law and it's recognition in this month's edition of the Law Society Scotland's Journal.

Scotland does not have large Muslim populations in the same way England has, so there has been no serious debate about the recognition of Sharia law in Scottish courts. Whilst Sharia councils have been set up in England to resolve civil disputes in Muslim communities they have no judicial role and John Fotheringham makes the point that they can only ever be courts of voluntary jurisdiction. It all makes sense.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Marilyn Stowe Blog

Marilyn Stowe has compiled a count down of the top ten dirty divorce tricks. See Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

10. Moving the spouse to a different country, in order to obtain a more favourable divorce settlement. There was the case of fund manager, Mark Niznik, who lured his estranged wife to move to Scotland under the pretext of reconciliation and then applied to the Scottish courts for divorce. See this article in the Daily Mail.

9. Covert surveillance of a spouse by bugging the phone, the car, the office - or by employing an enquiry agent. Always sounds like a sleazy thing to do.

8. Secretly photocopying every scrap of financial information in the house and office.

7. Salting away as much money as possible, ready for that “rainy day”.

6. Damage, destruction or sale of the household’s most valuable contents. Horror of horrors, Marilyn mentions the case of a wife selling a Steinway piano without the knowledge of her pianist husband.

5. Spending money wildly, as a form of “payback”. Not sure why it is always assumed that some wives do this and never husbands.

4. Assaulting the spouse and the new partner.

3. Using a “friend” as a spy, to gain access to the lawyer’s office. Whilst friends and relatives might be a good form of support it is never a good idea for someone to become too involved.

2. “Conflicting out” the spouse’s lawyer. This was a new one to me and involves making appointments with more than one lawyer to place them out of bounds to the other party.

1. If all else fails…running off with the divorce lawyer! After 9 years single this doesn't sound such a bad idea.

Marilyn Stowe has more than 25 years of experience handling divorce cases and family law proceedings and is highly skilled at uncovering attempts to disguise wealth and hide assets. She is regularly asked to write articles and give interviews to regional and national newspapers and magazines. I have added her blog to my roll.

Two other interesting posts were Family Law and Forensic Accountants and Beware the Desperate Housewives.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

What Happened to Aamer?

Further to this post there has been no news of Aamer Anwar's contempt of court hearing on 29th and 30th April. He had claimed the prosecution of a convicted terrorist was driven by the state. Last week the Sunday Times printed an article about Aamer Anwar's battle with the law which was pretty damning of the Scottish legal system.

Certainly Court rules and forms are complex, just reading them does not in itself explain how to use them, and there is a lack of openness within the legal system. The new independent complaints system won't be active until October 2008 and there are worries about how independent it actually is. Lawyers are conservative and apart from Aamer Anwar there are no radicals in the profession.

The ruling was expected this week so I wait with bated breath.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Fathers' Working Practices

For a long time I have been convinced the biggest obstacle to shared parenting after couples separate is the absence of shared parenting before separation and that if society wants a more equal distribution of child care there needs to be a change in the working practice of fathers. As I said in this post it's refreshing to see a fathers organisation, Dad Info, interested in establishing parent-friendly workplace practices and cultures.

However, it seems men are not exercising their right to flexible working. An article in The Times today reports three times more mothers than fathers with children under 6 are requesting flexible working and if there isn't more take up the issue will be marginalised. Perhaps culturally things don't happen overnight but I'm left questioning if society really wants this change.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Mither Tongue

Transcriptions of Scottish court cases have been affected by the awarding of the transcriptions contract to the Devon-based company Mendip Media Group. Apparently there were problems with court recording equipment and Mendip staff having difficulties with Scottish accents according to this article in The Scotsman.



Yesterday's Scotsman reported the Community Law Advice Network, or cl@n, has been set up with the aim of making the law more accessible to all by providing legal advice and representation to people at a place suitable to them, at the time that they need it, irrespective of their ability to pay. Its initial focus is in relation to children and young people in Edinburgh and the Lothians.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Divorce Coaching

Family Mediation Scotland has organised a training session for lawyers lead by the American divorce coach, Christina McGhee. According to the Law Society of Scotland's Journal this will be followed by a pilot of parent education classes and it is hoped family lawyers will encourage separating parents to attend in order to minimise conflict and its detrimental effects on children.

The Scottish Collaborative Family Law Group wants to see the introduction of parenting classes in all divorces involving children along with other forms of alternative dispute resolution.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dad Info

Thanks to BFS, who leaves comments on this blog, for bringing DAD to my notice. DAD is a new company created by parents to give dads a free and permanent source of the information they're likely to need. It is particularly refreshing to see a group of fathers interested in establishing parent-friendly workplace practices and cultures as the biggest obstacle to shared parenting after separation appears to be the absence of shared parenting before separation.

The Separation section, written by Nick Woodall from the Centre for Separated Families, is very clear and informative for mums as well as dads with action plans and facts about the Law and Rights, Making It Work and Troubleshooting. I've added DAD to my list of resources but thought it was worth quoting the 10 rules to protect children from the effects of separation.

1. Keep any conflict away from your child

2. Respect their relationship with their mum and don't make them take sides

3. Make sure they're provided for

4. Keep communicating about your children

5. Deal with your emotional responses away from your children

6. Try to get your child to express their feelings

7. Try to agree how your child will be brought up

8. Do what you say you will do

9. Be flexible

10. Don’t give up


Friday, May 9, 2008

Technical Problems

For some reason my broadband connection has been very dodgy all this week but the problem has now been resolved and I can start blogging again. Apart from needing the internet to work being without it meant reverting to old fashioned ways of reading the news, banking, shopping, paying car tax, booking car service/MOT and communicating with our children. I even rely on the internet for TV programmes. How sad is that?


Monday, May 5, 2008


After a number of recent posts about the financial aspects of divorce the lyrics from Pink Floyd seem appropriate.


Finding a Lawyer

It is a good idea to see a solicitor before starting to negotiate a financial settlement, arrangements for children or divorce to find out where you stand and your options. Although Scots law encourages pre-court settlements procedures and rules are such it is not possible to just read them to understand so unless there are no finances to sort out or no children under 16 a lawyer is going to be required at some point . I would strongly recommend finding a solicitor who is committed to non confrontational forms of dispute resolution such as mediation or collaborative law. The Family Law Association of Scotland has a database of family law specialists accessible here.

Hint: Costs can be kept down to a minimum by using your lawyer efficiently through;

(a) maintaining realistic expectations

(b) being organised and keeping to the point

(c) producing information in a timely manner

(d) not using your lawyer as a counsellor


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Scottish Legal Complaints

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission which was set up under the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 to resolve complaints against solicitors and advocates has recently launched a website. SLCC operates independently of the legal profession, and will launch on the 1st of October 2008. Copies of the draft rules and complaint form can be seen here.


Bad Taste

John Bolch of Family Lore has been following the saga of an estranged wife in America laundering her Dirty Linen on YouTube. Now you might expect something like that to happen in the States but are we heading that way in the UK too?

Yesterday I was dismayed to see this appearing on several divorce forums.

"I'm writing a piece for You magazine in the Mail on Sunday about women whose ex-partners lost their libidos as the women become more and more successful.

I know a lot of really successful women use this site so specifically I'm looking for:

A now divorced or separated woman in her 30s or 40s who was with a man whose sex drive waned the more successful
she became and that contributed to the marriage breakdown. You will be interviewed and photographed and paid for your time."

Apart from being insensitive posting on forums where many people go for support because their marriage is in the process of breaking down the idea that someone might actually take up the offer is disturbing. Call me old fashioned but I believe in a stiff upper lip and keeping one's dignity. Our private sex lives and that of our ex-partners should remain just that, private.


Vengeful Mother

No doubt fathers' rights campaigners will protest against the judgment of Lord Justice Ward who said it would be too distressing to compel a teenage girl to see her father after she been turned against the father by a "vicious" mother. In yesterday's case LJ Ward said the court could do nothing to re-establish contact and had to act in the best interests of the child. The Times report is here.

Whilst I have every sympathy with the father I think forcing a 14 year old to have contact with a parent or a change of residency in all cases is not the answer. Measures taken at this point are like shutting the stable door once the horse is bolted. Compelling a teenager is likely to be met with resentment and resistance and lead to further behavioural problems and removing a 14 year old from a loved and trusted parent is not necessarily in the child's best interest, although it could be appropriate in some circumstances. In this case problems had been apparent from 1997 and I think decisive action needs to be deployed quickly and much earlier on.


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