Friday, February 27, 2009

I'm Watching You

A poignant message to all Dads (and Mums), regardless of the religious convictions, about how important their role is in a child's life.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Independence of Scottish Legal Complaints

As I mentioned in this earlier post before the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission became active in October 2008 there were some concerns about the independence of the new independent legal complaints system. In his post 'Culture of fear' grips Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as Justice Department witch-hunt threatens whistleblower staff over leaks to media earlier this month Peter Cherbi launches a scathing attack on the secrecy and a witch-hunt within the organisation.

Peter Cherbi of A Diary of Injustice in Scotland is a writer and commentator on legal and consumer issues, human rights, politics, and injustice in Scotland and his work helped change the law in 2006 to bring a measure of independent regulation to Scotland's legal profession intended to raise standards of service and deal better with client complaints. Peter says " Now the task is to bring fully independent regulation to the legal services industry and see that everyone in Scotland has unrestricted choice of access to justice & quality legal services."


No Joke

The BBC covers the story of a menace found guilty at North Sefton Magistrates' Court of two counts of breaching by-laws after skating in Southport town centre. This was no hoodie, Geoff Dornan is a 71 year old pensioner who told the court he took up skating seven years ago to keep fit. Mr Dornan says he asserts his right to skate harmlessly and he will appeal to the Crown Court.

On the face of it this is quite a funny story, but apart from the nuisance and possible danger to others what strikes me is Mr Dornan dogged determination to do what he wants without any thought to others and regardless of by laws. This attitude is very similar to a father recently who had decided he was entitled to a certain amount in a divorce settlement and despite having being told twice by a judge the court would rule very differently because the proposal took no account of the housing needs of the child the father's reasoning was he 'thought' he should get £x.

What a waste of Court time and resources Mr Dornan's case is when Courts are clearly struggling to deal with cases which seriously impact on families' lives and cuts in legal aid mean there are growing numbers who cannot afford legal representation. Mr Dornan can access justice to assert his right to skate, but the child of the father above is likely to loose their home because the mother feels pressurised into settling because she cannot afford to take the matter any further.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

DV Early Intervention

Another article from The Scotsman this time reporting NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has launched an early- intervention scheme to crack down on DV amid fears that middle-class women are failing to report abuse. Middle-class women often refused to seek help because of the stigma associated with the crime. Academics cited doctors, church ministers and sheriffs as some of the perpetrators of abuse.


• REPORTED cases of domestic violence have increased markedly in Scotland, with recent figures showing a rise of almost 14 per cent in four years.

• In 2007-8, police recorded 49,655 incidents of domestic abuse, compared with 43,632 in 2004-5.

• Those most at risk of abuse are women aged 31 to 35, and it is estimated that one in five women in Scotland experiences domestic abuse at some stage.

• On average, Central Scotland Police receive 300 calls of domestic violence incidents every month. But campaigners say this is only the tip of the iceberg and many victims suffer in silence for many years.

• Research shows the average victim will have been subject to 35 incidents before they seek help. Charities are calling for more resources to tackle the issue so the early signs of abuse can be picked up at hospitals and clinics.

• In the UK as a whole, an average two women a week are killed by a male partner or former partner – this constitutes about one-third of all female homicide victims.

• Women's charities point out domestic abuse can affect any woman, regardless of her race, class, age, income or religion.


Restrictive Rape Laws

The Scotsman today reports a woman has called for a judge to be sacked after she gave evidence against a man who allegedly raped her. Ann Robertson was remanded by Roger Craik, QC, during the case against George Cummings at the High Court in Edinburgh earlier this month after she fled the from the witness stand during cross examination about her previous relationships. There is to be an investigation by Scotland's most senior judge.

Scotland's rape laws are among the most restrictive in the world and Scotland has has one of the lowest conviction rates for rape in the world. From 922 allegations of rape made to police only 27 resulted in conviction during 2006/2007. Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini last year launched a review of the way rapes are prosecuted to improve conviction rates and the treatment of victims.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Taking It To Church

In January it was the Celtic Connections music festival in Glasgow and some friends of mine were rehearing for the Transatlantic Sessions concert which closed the festival when they heard the news of the death of singer, songwriter, John Martyn. This was particularly sad because John, who started his musical career in Scotland, had performed with Kathy Mattea Danny Thompson and Jerry Douglas in the first series of the Transatlantic Sessions TV programme during 1995/1996. Kathy performed the same song solo accompanied by Danny and Jerry at Celtic Connections. Here is the video of the original TV version of May you Never.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dad at 13 Media Ban

After the story about a 13-year-old boy who allegedly fathered a baby with a 15 year old hit the media last week a High Court in England yesterday ruled Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – to a private and family life – took precedence over the Article 10, rights of the press to freedom of expression. According to The Independent the judge banned any further reporting. Thank goodness for common sense. An inquiry into whether payments by two newspapers broke the PCC code in relation to the treatment of minors has been announced.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Divorce Survivor Forum

The more observant readers will have noticed earlier this month I added a link to the new Divorce Survivor forum and the Directory on the bar at the top of this page. The Directory is a shorter version of my private Netvibe pages and includes feeds from UK divorce and family law blogs/blawgs and further afield. On the right hand side of the page are feeds from other useful sites such as CaseCheck and The Journal.

There were a few hitches with the forum which have now been resolved (thanks to those who provided feedback - I hope the change of colour and layout meets with everyone's approval ;) Anyone whose life is impacted by separation or divorce is welcome to join .


Mental Health Focus

The Guardian has today published several articles focusing on mental health. "As a society" the introduction says, "we should we doing all we can to avoid and alleviate preventable suffering; as an economy, investment in our mental capital guarantees increased returns." One article, Vital first steps, considers the importance of the early years in a child's life in relation to long-term mental health.

It is now well accepted that the emotional attachments children form during the early years are a crucial part in laying down the foundations for their future mental health. "Babies who receive sensitive, emotionally responsive care during their first years are more likely to become securely attached. Babies receiving insensitive, inconsistent or unresponsive care are likely to become insecurely attached." says Jane Barlow, professor of public health in the early years at Warwick University. (This is an issue in determining care for very young children of separated parents)

Despite some success of the Sure Start programme which attempts to bring together child health and family services, early education and childcare, and employment support to tackle the consequences of poor attachments it is extremely difficult to get funding for infant mental health services, even though they are hugely beneficial for adult mental health trusts because they will not be picking up the pieces later on.

Another article Off the scale: Measuring wellbeing looks at a survey of wellbeing across Europe that found countries which have traditionally invested more in their social infrastructure have the highest levels of overall wellbeing. Levels of trust and belonging are "strikingly" low among young people in the UK, the report says. One in ten children between five and 16 has clinically significant mental health difficulties.

Relating to the mental health of children and parental separation the Joseph Rowntree Foundation today also published a study Ending child poverty in a changing economy by Donald Hirsch which suggests that, under existing policies, about 1.1 million fewer children will be in poverty by 2010 than in 1998 when the target was set. This will still be 600,000 short of the government target of halving child poverty by the and it will make it more difficult to meet the more ambitious goal of eradicating child poverty by 2020. Without any new policies to help low-income families the report says , child poverty could rise again to 3.1 million by 2020.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Quick Blog Updates

Pink Tape - In her post, Family Justice Under Threat, last week Lucy Reed made a heartfelt plea for people to respond before 13 March 2009 to a Legal Services Commission's consultation on proposals to change the way legal aid is paid for in England & Wales. Significant cuts to legal aid on family cases, specifically disputes between divorcing couples about finances and property and disputes between parents about children are proposed. In real terms the cuts to barristers' pay will amount to approximately 50% overall and as much as 75% in more complex disputes. The danger is that the cuts make practice at the junior end of the work not viable so there will come a time when there are no experienced barristers to take on difficult cases. People will then be unrepresented or will have inadequate representation so individual hearings will run longer, cases will run longer and the system which is already struggling will slow down even more.

Chicago Divorce Lawyer - We often hear about the figures of children from divorced families who do less well when compared to children of intact families, but to my knowledge there are no figures that tell us how many children grow to be successful because they overcame the difficulties relating to their parent's separation. Marie Fahner's post, Successful Children of Divorce, suggests the qualities that Barack Obama learned from the experience of his parents' divorce are reflected in how he has run his life and how quickly he is able to overcome differences. If handled properly, divorce may teach children the necessary skills for a successful future. It seems to me a disproportionately high number of the world's most famous people have overcome childhood adversity and throughout history there has been many children brought up with the absence of at least one parent who then went on to do great things eg Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford, Tom Cruise, the Duke of Wellington, Alan Johnson (Secretary of State for Health) George Eliot, Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou.

Darn Divorce - I have just added DWordDiva's blog billed as a collection of random thoughts and news on the Dreaded D-Word to my blog roll. She says "Sometimes its just better to laugh it off, that’s all." I couldn't agree more.

Divorce Manual - - Natasha Phillips is a single mother who has gone through the divorce process in the UK. She also has a legal background and has written the Divorce Manual a guide to getting through divorce. Just a word of caution, although Natasha says the site is dedicated to demystifying divorce, the divorce courts and divorce process in Britain as a whole the Manual is actually about the system in England & Wales.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Deadbeat Dads v Obstructive Mums

A new study, Problematic contact after separation and divorce? (pdf), from Gingerbread and the University of Oxford challenges the perception that single parents commonly obstruct contact between children and their other parent. However, it reveals the extent to which parents – most of whom do not involve the family courts in their disputes - struggle with contact issues, and want more help. No single ingredient was held responsible for making contact work or not work. It was the attitudes, actions and interactions of all family members that were determinative. Making contact work required the commitment of both adults and children.

The survey of 559 separated parents found;

Most children do have contact with their ‘non-resident’ parent (71% according to resident parents, 85% according to non-resident parents). Parents (both resident and non-resident) often want there to be more contact.

But few families find contact straightforward: even where the child does see their other parent, around 7 in 10 parents report problems since the separation (71% of resident and 68% of non-resident parents).

A minority of non-resident parents (most of whom are fathers) said their contact had been stopped (13% said it had happened quite a lot). The resident parents (generally mothers) who had stopped contact often said this was because of a safety concern (36%) or because of the child’s feelings about contact (29%).

Many resident parents had been worried at some time about the quality of the other parent’s care during contact visits (24% had worries about some aspect of care and 11% had concerns about serious welfare issues such as substance abuse). A similar level of concern about the resident parent’s care was reported by non-resident parents – 23% had worries and 9% had concerns about serious issues).

The vast majority of separated parents (more than 90%) do not go to court over contact. The research shows clearly that these families are not problem-free – although many of them are managing most of the time, often with the help of family, parents wanted more support.


Sunday, February 15, 2009


Earlier today I overcame my usual reticence of speaking in public and was interviewed by John Bolch of Family Lore in my first ever podcast. I actually quite enjoyed myself and after reading his blog regularly for two years it was a great pleasure to speak to John. The podcast is here.


Fewer Weddings

In typical media style on Thursday The Guardian reported marriage statistics in England & Wales released by the Office of National Statistics as a "crash to all-time low." In fact the drop in the rate for 2007 from to 2006 was 3.3% which I would hardly describe as a crash and one year's figures alone are pretty meaningless. For example, the current economic circumstances might be a factor in couples postponing marriage. Nonetheless in the longer term there has been a significant downward trend, a drop of 34% since 1981.

One possible explanation for the drop according to Joanna Grandfield, barrister, is men may be delaying or shunning marriage altogether because of a perception in England & Wales that wives do really rather too well in divorce now. However, the changes to divorce laws that have brought about this perception are fairly recent and do not explain the trend over the 27 year period. In Scotland family law is arguably less generous to wives and according to General Register Office for Scotland figures there has still been a drop of some 20% in the number of marriages over the same period.

Do men in England & Wales loose out financially on divorce? According to recent research carried out by ISER not as much as women. Even if one gender does loose out I do not believe the risk of repercussions if the relationship fails is the basis upon which most people decide whether to marry or not. Nor should it be.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

The X Factor

In California a gym is offering the opportunity 'to punch an ex on St Valentine's Day.' Participants wreak their revenge in boxing workouts where they take out their frustrations on pictures of former partners. See Reuters video here.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Child Protection - Improving Standards

The Scottish Government has announced a new cycle of child protection inspections to be carried out HM Inspectors of Education and its partners. Current inspections in every local authority area in Scotland end in March and failings in child protection services in the Moray area have been identified. According to The Journal yesterday Children's Minister Adam Ingram said: "The shortcomings identified in this report are completely unacceptable and must be addressed quickly and effectively."

The new cycle of inspections is to begin in April and will focus on "those council areas where improvement is most needed and will continue to identify and share good practice."


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Clean Break Risks

In light of the the current economic situation The Guardian highlights the difficulty city bankers face because since they opted for a clean break settlement on divorce their income has dropped significantly. In England & Wales many of the highly paid choose a large, clean-break settlement to avoid not be liable for long-term maintenance costs. Maintenance may be varied if there is a substantial drop in income but it is difficult to renegotiate one off payments required for a clean break.

Given family law in Scotland is underpinned by the 'clean break' there must be a number of people who find themselves in a similar position when their income has reduced effecting the ability to recover from the effects of the settlement.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Scottish Law Online

Scottish Law Online is a long standing web portal for lawyers, solicitors or advocates, academics, students or the public who are interested in Scots Law. The site is completely independent and is not associated with any University, Law Firm, the Law Society of Scotland or the Scottish Parliament. There is a link to the Family Law section in the right hand side bar.


Sunday, February 8, 2009


I was going to write about PAS but Charon has beaten me to it.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Common Ground

In the Common Ground tradition of exploring the diversity of different cultures and finding what we have in common with one another across the Atlantic that outweighs our differences I thought I would mention two recent posts from Sam Hasler of the Indiana Divorce & Family Law Blog.

The first, Parenting Time Alternate Means, looks at the way the internet can be used to facilitate indirect contact, in particular an interactive, safe and secure web-based meeting place developed for non-resident parents or parents in shared care situations, grandparents, military families, or the heavy business traveler to keep in touch with family members. Features include live video phone calling, shared spaces for photos, videos and documents, personal notes, an interactive white board, and a shared calendar.

Say the right thing:10 ways to defuse conflict and promote harmony| Domestic Diversions lists 10 diplomatic things to say from a CNN article which are worth repeating.

1. “Thank you for your opinion. I’ll think about it.”
2. “Is this a good time for you?”
3. “Would you like my thoughts?”
4. “Why don’t we get the facts?”
5. “I need your help. Can you please…?”
6. “Let’s wait on this until we have more information.”
7. “What did you mean by that?”
8. “I don’t like that, so why don’t we do this instead?”
9. “I’m sorry you’re upset.”
10. “Let me get back to you.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Online Divorce & Solicitors

Jo Spain of Family Law Matters has written two posts DIY divorce - why use a family law solicitor? The first post looks at online divorce and whilst Jo suggests it might be worthwhile in some cases when divorce is uncontested and the finances agreed she questions the need to pay for forms and guidance notes which are freely available to download on the internet. Even if people do their own divorce most will need proper legal advice and assistance regarding the finances to to ensure they are properly protected.

Part 2 points out most people would hire someone who knows what they are doing to fit a new boiler, prepare company accounts or plumb in a new bathroom as it is better to hire someone who knows what they are doing and have studied and worked in that role for some time to give them the knowledge and expertise to be able to provide an efficient service.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Interdisciplinary Approach

In the January edition of The Journal Anne Dick, Training Convener,Scottish Collaborative Family Law Group, has written this article about collaborative law. Collaborative law developed to address the issues of the emotional impact of divorce and the adversarial nature of the court system. Collaborative practice allows a couple to receive interdisciplinary support - legal guidance, financial advice and counseling in a joined-up way. According to the article collaborative practitioners train together and have an understanding of one another’s disciplines and objectives.

There is more information about collaborative law in this post of mine.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Court Guidelines

I thought this was quite a good idea. The Family Court judges and magistrates in the Midland region last week issued guidelines be given to all parties in proceedings relating to residence and contact cases involving children. The intention is to advice parents of what the judges require of them to consider before taking matters further including;

Shared responsibility for bringing up their children

Doing what’s best for their child

Helping their children by listening, talking and explaining what is happening.

Emphasising that court imposed orders tend to work less well than agreements made between parents

The guidelines What the Family Courts expect from parents are available to download as a pdf from the Judiciary of England & Wales website.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Working Mothers Damage Children?

According to a report by charity the Children's Society the growing economic independence of women is linked to the break-up of families, which in turn is damaging children. The report, compiled by more than 35,000 contributors, including 20,000 children, is independent of the Church of England-affiliated Children's Society, but has been endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

The Children's Society said two changes stood out, the first being that most women now worked and had careers as well as being mothers. The second change was the rise in family break-ups. However, figures published by Unicef in 2007 showed that children in Scandinavian countries – where rates of family break-up are similar to the UK – are happier than British children.

Criticism is made of the lack of support in Britain for families and calls for parenting classes, psychological support when relationships come under strain and more help if children develop behavioural problems.


It Wisnae Me

To avoid any doubt I know nuffin about this robbery yesterday reported by BBC Scotland which took place a mile or so from my home.


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