Saturday, May 30, 2009

"Calling It Quits"

Watch CBS Videos Online

A growing number of 20-, 30- and even 40-year marriages are ending in divorce. Interview with Deirdre Bair, author of "Calling It Quits: Late-Life Divorce And Starting Over,"


Friday, May 29, 2009

Joseph Rowntree Foundation: Child Poverty in Scotland

Approximately 21% of children in Scotland are living in poverty, according to a report released today by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Despite earlier progress over the last decade in reducing child poverty – reductions were greater in Scotland than in other UK regions – levels have stalled since 2004/05 and are now fairly similar to the rest of the UK.

Today's report, Child poverty in Scotland: taking the next steps, discusses progress made to end child poverty in Scotland. It states that the Scottish government could do more to reduce child poverty in Scotland. A wide range of policy measures are recommended to get progress back on track, from increasing the availability of affordable childcare to encouraging the Scottish government to look seriously at defining and paying a living wage. One in five lone parents referred to the cost of childcare as a barrier to employment, and 15 per cent mentioned the lack of available care in the Families And Children Study (Willitts et al.,2003)

Joint author, Stephen Sinclair from the Scottish Poverty Information Unit at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: "The political opportunities to end child poverty in Scotland are potentially greater than in many other parts of the UK. This places a huge responsibility on the Scottish government to do all it can to achieve the target of eradicating child poverty by 2020."

Specific measures that authors suggest the Scottish government should implement include:

* encouraging employers to create more flexible jobs which allow parents to combine work and care responsibilities;
* increasing access to affordable, flexible childcare;
* providing in-work support and advice to help parents remain in employment;
* giving serious consideration to the concept of a Scottish living wage and what more public sector employers can do to tackle poverty among their employees.

Full report Source Joseph Rowntree Foundation 29 May 2009


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wikivorce Australia Goes Live


Wikivorce, the world's fastest growing divorce support community is continuing its expansion by launching Wikivorce Australia, an Aussie specific version of its very popular divorce and separation social networking website.

Due to the global financial slump an increasing number of separating couples are turning to the internet to find free advice and support, as well as cost effective legal solutions. The decreasing value of their homes and pensions means they are less able to afford expensive lawyer's bills.

Wikivorce is an online divorce support community offering free advice, support and information. It now has over 35,000 members. One new person visits the site every minute. It is the most visited divorce website in the UK with close to 1 million page views per month.

Wikivorce founder, Ian Rispin, said: "Wikivorce is now well established as the leading divorce support website in England. Two weeks ago we launched our Scottish site and today we are going live with a fully localised version of the site for the people going through a break up in Australia."

The new site will contain a library of information specific to divorce in Australia; court forms will be available to download together with information about how to fill them in and members will be able to share their stories, support each other and exchange useful advice and information about how to get through the divorce process either with legal representation or without.

One of the most important parts of the site is the forum where members can ask questions about every aspect of divorce and separation. Although there will be sections that are specific to Australian procedures, members will also be able to receive - and offer - emotional support as part of the growing global Wikivorce support community.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

University of Strathclyde Law Clinic

The University of Strathclyde Law Clinic is the only service of its kind in Scotland to provide free legal assistance to people in Glasgow and the surrounding area who are unable to obtain legal assistance through other means.

Although the Law Clinic will usually not take on family disputes where children are involved it can help with a wide variety of problems and disputes, such as housing, consumer law, employment law and Council tax. The legal assistance provided includes legal advice, writing letters, speaking to relevant authorities or opponents, negotiating settlements to disputes, and representation in the courts.

The Law Clinic cannot help if;

* You qualify for legal aid
* You can afford a solicitor
* Another better qualified agency can help you (such as a debt advice agency, Immigration Advisory Service, a Citizens' Advice Bureaux)

Student volunteers supervised by two solicitors and advised by Law School Academics (and in some cases the law firm of McGrigors LLP) work in the Clinic. Recently, an 'outreach' clinic has been set up in North Glasgow.

To arrange an appointment telephone 0141 548 5995 or alternatively, email


Monday, May 25, 2009

Man in Tights to Monster Raving Loony

Some stories you couldn't make up. As the elections on 4th June are nearly upon us I checked out the Equal Parenting Alliance to see if they were running any candidates. According to Wikipedia the Equal Parenting Alliance is a UK political party formed in 2006 by a former Fathers For Justice member to bring about reform of the family law system in England and Wales. Some of their policies available on the website bear an uncanny resemblance to the Scary Stuff - BNP's White Paper on Family Law, Familoo of Pink Tape blogged about earlier today.

The Equal Parenting Alliance gained 124 votes in the Scottish Parliamentary Elections (South Ayrshire Council) and candidate, Keith Colett, 17 votes in Runnymede Council Elections (Wikipedia) during 2007. In May 2008 their candidate gained 101 votes in the Wolverhampton Local Government Elections (Coventry Telegraph). Apparently this time the Equal Parenting Alliance have one candidate, Keith Collett, standing for 2 seats in Runnymede. Keith Collet, now why did that name ring a bell? Wikipedia reveals a Keith Collet stood in Runnymede Council Election in 2003 and had gained more votes (103) - as a Monster Raving Loony.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Relationships Scotland

It is over a year now since Relate Scotland and Family Mediation Scotland merged to become Relationships Scotland so I thought it would be interesting to have a look at their website to see what services are now on offer. Apart from Relationship Counselling and Family Mediation, Relationships Scotland currently supports a variety of other family support services: Child Contact Centres, Groups for adults and Groups for children.

Child Contact Centres offer supervision at the venue, supporting the exchange of the child from one parent to the other and supporting the contact when necessary. Alternatively Child Contact Centres may be used as a venue to “pick up” and “drop off” children for contact.

Family mediation services offer support groups for adults. These may be in the form of a series of workshops exploring the emotional and practical difficulties of divorce and separation. These groups are called Surviving the Break Up. Also on offer are a one off, 3 hour parent education workshop called Parenting Apart where parents can find out how best to support their children through separation – covering the emotional process of separation, children’s different needs at different stages, and what children need to hear.

Groups for children in which they are supported to express their thoughts and feelings in a safe environment re run by family mediation services. They meet with other children experiencing their parents divorce or separation and they are able to support one another through that. In some services these groups are called Time to Talk
Some local services provide a children and young persons’ counselling service to give children and young people time to explore their thoughts and feelings about changes they may be experiencing in their life due to parental separation, divorce or moving into a step-family situation.

Not all the services are available in all locations, unfortunately, but there is a useful search facility for finding specific services offered at different locations.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Baby Peter

The horrific story of Baby Peter , just 17 months old when he was found dead in a blood-spattered cot in August 2007 having suffered a broken back and fractured ribs has been widely covered by the media and other bloggers. He had more than 50 injuries despite being on the at-risk register and receiving 60 visits from social workers, doctors and police over eight months. On Friday the mother of Baby Peter, described as an aggressive and manipulative woman, was sentenced at the Old Bailey to 10 years in prison for causing the death of her child. Earlier in the week her boyfriend was sentenced to 12 years in prison for causing Baby P's death and life for raping a two-year-old girl.

Apart from this post linking to the chronology from the official files and the Scots' Reaction to Lamming (the report into child protection services in England ordered after the conclusion of the case) there has been little more I can add to the weeks of extensive coverage.

Article Source The Herald 23 May 2009


Friday, May 22, 2009

Dads' Space/Mums' Space

The domestic violence association Respect,recently launched a virtual child contact centre. The service is not just for those where there are risks, it may also be used to to enhance existing contact or when parents live a distance apart or when work commitments make contact difficult. There are two sites, Dads' Space 1-2-1 and Mum's Space 1-2-1 and they allow separated parents and children to share photos, email, chat, send gifts and cards, and play games online.

At the National Family Picnic taking place in Regents Park on 25th May awards, consisting of Family of the Year (in association with National Family Week), Mum of the Year (in association Mumsnet) and Dad of the Year (in association with Dads-Space), are to be presented. Gordon Brown has recorded this message of support.

At the moment the service only works through a referrals process and for more information about the service , or to make a referral, you can write to the Dads’ Space 1-2-1 Team at:


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Supporting Young Adults

Yesterday in R (G) v Southwark London Borough Council the House of Lords ruled that a 17-year-old who was thrown out of his home by his mother should have been provided care by his local authority and not just provided accommodation by the homeless persons unit.

This was of particular interest because as older teenagers our children were in the habit of bringing home waifs who for one reason or another couldn't stay with their parents. Over a number of years we had a total of 4 young people staying with us at different times and as indicated in this earlier post stability and support encourages young people to remain in employment, education or training. 3 out of our 4 went on to graduate with good first degrees and one is starting a PhD after the summer.

Family Law has a full case brief, this is part of the summary.

... Having been thrown out of his home by his mother and after sleeping on friends' sofas and in their cars, the teenager presented himself to the authority social services department requesting accommodation.

The authority provided the child with bed and breakfast accommodation, but concluded that, given the child's resourcefulness and age, accommodation provided by the homeless persons unit, with referrals to other support agencies, would be sufficient for his needs.

His solicitors argued that the child should in fact be accommodated pursuant to s 20(1)(c) of the Children Act 1989, thereby becoming entitled to the wider range of services available to a 'looked after child' and eventually qualifying as a 'former relevant child'.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the child's application for judicial review, stating that the local authority had been entitled in this case to decide that, even though the child was unable to live with the mother and had no other home, as a resourceful teenager capable of sourcing accommodation provided that he was given assistance to do so, he needed only 'help with accommodation' .........,,

If, as in this case, a child met those criteria, the child was entitled to support under s 20 once every item on the list had been assessed in the child's favour, the duty had arisen, and the authority were not entitled to 'side-step' that duty by giving the accommodation a different label. A local children's authority could not avoid their responsibilities by 'passing the buck' to another authority, such as a housing authority, but could ask another authority to use its powers to help them discharge theirs.

Full summary Source Family Law 20 May 2009


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Witholding Passports

All too often in my experence some separated parents are difficult about children going on holiday with the other parent. Absolvitor has picked up the story about an 11 year old boy, Brendan MacFarlane, from Perth taking his mother to court to force her to hand over his passport so that he can attend a talent show in America. Brendan's performances on YouTube earned him an invitation to sing live on US TV show "Maury's Most Talented Kids" but Brendan lives with his father and his mother refuses to hand over the passport. She failed to attend the hearing due to an upset stomach so the case has been put off until next month.


Free Legal Advice

Community Legal Advice currently provides free independent advice about debt, education, benefits and tax credits, employment and housing problems over the telephone in England & Wales. The service is available those on low income who are not eligible for legal aid. Recently the Legal Services Commission announced the service is to expand the service so legal advice will be available for family related legal problems.

“The Legal Services Commission is investing around £7million over three years in the Community Legal Advice family service. From August, people who need help but can’t afford it will be able to call 0845 345 4 345 to get free help for family related legal problems. During the current recession, debt, eviction or redundancy can put a strain on relationships. Equally, splitting families can cause housing or debt problems.”

Press release Source Legal Services Commission 11 May 2009


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Embezzlment: Family Solicitor Jailed

William Rennie, who was a family solicitor in Ayrshire, was jailed yesterday for a year after stealing almost £90k from clients. In 2004 it was discovered he had embezzled money from the accounts of clients to pay off a VAT bill in an attempt to avoid legal action and he ceased trading after the Law Society became involved.

At the trial Sheriff Alistair Watson told Rennie "A solicitor has a special place of trust in the lives of people and the abuse of that trust is always extremely serious."

Full story Source The Herald 19 May 2009


Grandparenting Report Launched

In a report launched yesterday at Westminister the Grandparents Association, Family Matters Institute and Families Need Fathers claim grandparents are getting a raw deal under existing family law. The study Beyond the Nuclear: Including the Wider Family, says The Herald, found that 42% of grandparents lost all face-to-face contact with their grandchildren after parents separated.

In Scotland there is no automatic right for grandparents to have contact with their grandchildren but a court application can be made without leave from the court. The Scottish Government has refused to amend legislation to include any legal "presumption" of contact rights for grandparents. Although not legally binding the Grandparents' Charter in 2006 sets out the rights of grandparents.

The campaigning groups are calling for reform to the law in England and Wales so it is no longer necessary for grandparents to apply for leave of the to apply for a contact order.

Bah, humbug, I'm not in favour of grandparents having a "presumption" of contact rights . Contact is for the benefit of children, their time belongs them. Separated families struggle with contact enough as it is without the pressures of further court actions and accommodating schedules for grandparents. Parents need to be able to parent without the intervention of grandparents, who on occasion may actually fuel conflict. Whilst I do appreciate grandparents may add a dimension to a child's life, when contact time for parents is sorted it will naturally follow that children can have a relationship with grandparents.

Full story Source The Herald 19 May 2009


Monday, May 18, 2009

Blog Round Up 4

There are only a handful of Scottish blawgs and I still haven't come across a family law one (Jonathan Mitchell QC does the occasional excellent post about family law) which I think is a great shame because blogging is a great way of engaging with the public and correcting any misconceptions. To spur lawyers on there is Charon QC's post The Bar Urged To Use The Internet Thingy to Market Themselves..... Shock Horror

Lucy Reed of Pink Tape makes valid points about the disadvantages of using an online divorce service here. Firstly, the fastest ‘UK’s best selling managed divorce service’ is causing a logjam and therefore the court local to them is perhaps no longer the 'UK's fastest divorce court.' Secondly, someone who is someway down the separation route might discover they need to travel a great distance to resolve a dispute about children at the court local to the online divorce service where the divorce petition is pending.

John Bolch of Family Lore asks is Tagging:A Good Thing? after the case of Re A Minor (Family Proceedings: Electronic Tagging) [2009] EWHC 710 (Fam), when the mother, who had twice wrongfully removed the child from the jurisdiction, agreed to be electronically tagged whilst the child was with her.

Marilyn Stowe's post about a mother denied all access to her children by the court provoked some interesting reaction. According to The Times the woman was judged to be too indulgent a parent an banned from seeing her children for three years. Marilyn raised concerns about whether the court should have taken such action and John Bolch played the Devil's Advocate asking how is the court to deal with a parent causing children to suffer serious emotional harm? Of particular interest are the informed, objective comments on Marilyn's blog from those professionals involved with intervening in difficult contact cases advocating a 'whole host of interventions that might be attempted before drastic measures are taken.'

Rarely in my experience do these cases boil down just to the behaviour of one parent. We really need to more in terms of providing education and support to families going through break down at an early stage to give people coping strategies and prevent as many of these cases as possible in the first place.

Judith Middleton of Judith's Divorce Blog has an excellent topical story about listing income needs.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Children Live With Fathers In 47% of Cases

The Times reports a survey carried out by Cafcass, the children's court service in England & Wales. Figures, Cafcass reckon, indicate that some claims made by groups such as Fathers4Justice might be exaggerated and that wouldn't surprise me. The key findings printed in the newspaper were;

• Only one in ten separated or divorced couples ends up going to court to fight over contact with children

• The study looked at a sample of 308 applications for contact.

• Three quarters (77 percent) were made by non-resident parents, usually fathers.

• Fathers instigate 45 percent of the 3,000 residency applications each year.

• In 48 percent of disputed cases last year, children were allowed to live with their fathers either full-time or part-time.

• In only 14 percent of cases was there to be no contact at all.

Claims by fathers groups may well be exaggerated, but the article doesn't make it clear that 'living' with the father could refer to every other weekend and practically no different from a conventional contact order. Also 14 percent of cases were there is to be no contact seems rather a high figure to me.

Full story Source The Times 16 May 2009


Minimising Divorce Costs

Last week Marilyn Stowe gave some good tips on how to minimise the costs of divorce in a recession in an article she wrote in The Telegraph;

• Move swiftly

• Get your timing right

• Make interim arrangements for bills

• Save, don't splurge

• Consider using a collaborative lawyer

• Look out for deliberately low offers and valuations

• Cash is king

• Avoid Mesher orders

• Know what to do if your spouse goes bankrupt

Full story Source The Telegraph 15 May 2009


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pay Up or Else

... has the Child Support Agency become too punitive?

Lying about income, assigning assets to a new partner and changing jobs to avoid deduction-from-earnings orders are common tactics for men seeking to escape child support obligations. The Child Support Agency has until recently lacked the firepower to counter such dodges. But the tables have turned and solicitors and MPs say that most of the complaints they now get about the agency come from non-resident fathers shocked at its punitive approach.

Almost 70,000 earnings deduction orders were taken out in 2008-09, at rates of up to 40% of pay; some 30 men have been imprisoned for non-payment and 500 given suspended sentences. In one case, a family received a record single arrears payment of £57,000 after the agency took a legal charge on the father's new property.

Full story Source The Guardian 10 May 2009


Friday, May 15, 2009

Ex Ex Wife

I rather like the sentiment - I was happily divorced, I didn't have a dime, But every dime I didn't have was mine


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Negligence and Compensation

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has appointed Professor Frank Stephens and Dr Angela Melville of Manchester University School of Law to undertake research into the Law Society of Scotland's client negligence and compensation schemes, known as Master Policy and Guarantee Fund.

The researchers are particularly interested in people’s experiences of bringing a negligence claim against a solicitor or advocate or making a claim against the Guarantee Fund, as well as views on the operation of the policies more generally. There are more details here and here.

Members of the public are invited to contribute their views and can contact Dr Angela Melville on 0161 275 3580, or email for more information. The independent report is due at the end of June 2009.

Thanks again to Peter Cherbi of A Diary of Injustice in Scotland for the tip off.


The Divorce Show

The Divorce Show seeks sponsors to target quarreling couples

LONDON - The Divorce Show, possibly the only place to see more rowing couples than Ikea, is seeking sponsors for the inaugural event to take place at the NEC in September.

The organisers of another divorce fair are hoping to attract exhibitors from legal and financial sectors as well as from holiday companies, health, and beauty and fashion brands. The Divorce Show 2009 is billed as the UK's largest national event dedicated to delivering a wealth of information, helpful advice and practical resources to an anticipated audience of 20,000 visitors. The event takes place on September 11th-13th 2009 at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham.

I know a few exhibitors who went to the first divorce fair, the Starting Over Show, said it was interesting, however, I would like to know if there were many people going through divorce in attendance and what they thought of it. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I feel uncomfortable about the high profile marketing of divorce services and targeting quarreling couples at one of the most difficult times in their life. Still, hats off to The Divorce Show for a clever bit of marketing.

Full article Source Marketing 7 May 2009


CSA Quarterly Statistics

On 1 November 2008, the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission took over responsibility for the Child Support Agency functions and the first summary of quarterly figures since the takeover became available at the end of April 2009.

Main Findings

• At the end of March 2009, the CSA caseload stood at 1.28 million.

• The volume of uncleared current scheme applications has fallen by 57,700 since March 2008 and at 49,200 (including clerical cases) is at its lowest since May 2003. This represents a fall of 54% since March 2008. At the end of March 2009, there were 64,900 uncleared applications across both schemes (not including clerical performance), a fall of 52% over the previous twelve months.

• In the quarter ending March 2009, 71% of all cases in which maintenance was due had either received maintenance via the CSA collection service, or had a maintenance direct arrangement in place.

• In the three months to March 2009, maintenance had been collected or arranged by the Agency on behalf of 779,800 children.

• In the year to March 2009, the Agency collected or arranged £1,132M in child maintenance (regular and arrears), of which £158M was arrears.

• In the quarter ending March 2009, on average, where maintenance had been charged and then paid via the collection service, the Agency had collected 91% of the amount due.

• Of those current scheme applications where the Agency has made a calculation and set up a collection schedule on which payments were expected from the non-resident parent, 92% of cases have made at least one payment to the parent with care.

• At the end of the 2007/08 financial year (latest available), the total amount of outstanding money owed by non resident parents to parents with care stood at £3.8 billion, whilst this represented an increase of £120 million since 2006/07, the average monthly rate of increase has slowed from £16 million to £10 million.

• At the end of March 2009, the average current scheme maintenance calculation was £23 per week (including zero calculations), and that for old scheme assessments was £18.

• At the year ending March 2009, the Agency had answered 99% of telephone calls available to staff to answer. The average waiting time was 13 seconds. This is up from 98% answered with a waiting time of 20 seconds in the year ending March 2008.

• In March 2009, there were 9,200 staff employed by the CSA (measured on a full-time equivalent basis) this is down from 9,500 in March 2008.

Full summary Source Child Maintenace and Enforcement Commission 29 April 2009


Forensic Accountants

In the aftermath of the Myerson case in England when Brian Myerson failed to reduce his divorce settlement the FT looks at the role of Jeffrey Nedas, a forensic accountant who specialises in big money matrimonial cases. Mr Nedas is also called upon to trace offshore assets to work out whether someone is not disclosing their true net worth to minimise a settlement.

There are two main principles when advising business owners involved in a divorce Jeffrey Nedas says. First, to take a sensible and commercial view when valuing the asset, to avoid racking up excessive costs. Second, if a business is the main source of their prosperity, to make every effort to keep it running successfully, protecting a steady income flow for the benefit of both parties until it can be sold.

Mr Nedas acts for husbands as often as for wives although he has some sympathy for the women whose first inkling of the true state of their finances comes after their husband has asked for a divorce. "For some of them, they will have enjoyed this luxury lifestyle for years, but when everything comes out, it turns out they have been living in a castle built on sand."

Full story Source The Financial Times 8 May 2009


Monday, May 11, 2009

"Victorian" Scots Courts

In a speech at the 60th Anniversary conference of the Law Society of Scotland in Edinburgh Lord Gill told lawyers "The civil justice system in Scotland is a Victorian model that has survived by means of periodic piecemeal reforms. But in substance, its structure and procedures are those of a century and a half ago. It is failing the litigant and, therefore, failing society" The Scotsman reports.

At the request of Scottish ministers Lord Gill is undertaking a review of the entire civil justice system and will report at the end of June. There is more about the review here.

"The judicial structure should be based on a proper hierarchy of courts and the procedures should be appropriate to the nature and the importance of the case, in terms of time and cost. Scottish justice fails on all these counts" Lord Gill said and continued;

"Its delays are notorious. Its costs deter litigants whose claims may be well founded. Its procedures cause frustration and obstruct, rather than facilitate the achievement of justice."

Personal costs, not just financial ones, of undertaking an action in the civil courts deter litigants particularly in areas of law such as family matters – especially those that involve children. I don't think many would disagree with this.

Full article Source The Scotsman 9 May 2006


Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Cinderella Effect

Following a number of high profile cases of children abused by step parents Camilla Cavendish writes about the Cinderella Effect, the name given to analysis in Canada, the US and Britain which suggests that children are at far greater risk from stepfathers and non-blood “relatives” than from natural parents.

• Canadian research over 20 years has put the risk of being killed by a stepparent at between 50 to 100 times greater than the risk of being killed by a parent.

• A 1989 study by the University of Iowa found non-biological fathers four times more likely than natural fathers to sexually abuse children in their care.

• In Britain, NSPCC research has found that children living with biological parents are between 20 and 33 times safer than those living in any other type of household

If the figures are correct, the article continues, by far the most effective check on abuse is the real family and biological fathers.

Full article Source The Times 8 May 2009


Swearing Judge

In this earlier post I mentioned Lord Justice Wall's judgement quoting This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin which begins: "They fuck you up, your mum and dad/ They may not mean to, but they do/They fill you with the faults they had/ And add some extra, just for you."

This was the case R (A Child), Re [2009] EWCA Civ 358 in England where court battles over a child's residence began six years ago and psychiatric reports found that his involvement in the parental battle would have a high risk of increasing his "negative and aggressive behaviours", causing a negative self-image and relationship difficulties. An original order that the boy should live with his paternal grandparents was set aside.

In a general warning to all divorced parents, the judge said: "This mother and father are no different from many separated parents who make the damage to their children caused by their separation much worse by continuing their battles against each other in legal proceedings."

Full article Source The Guardian 30 April 2009


Thursday, May 7, 2009


Earlier this afternoon Margo MacDonald (Independent) asked the Scottish Executive whether it will introduce the practice of allowing a McKenzie’s Friend into Scottish courts. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said already a person may be accompanied a friend, relative or lay person in small claims and summary causes sheriff's courts. One thing that differentiates Scotland from England & Wales, he continued, is the wider and broader access to legal aid allowing greater opportunity for representation. Lord Gill's upcoming Civil Courts Review will consider McKenzie Friends and the wider issues of those representing themselves .

This followed consideration by the Public Petition Committee on Tuesday of petition PE1247 by Stewart Mackenzie calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to introduce a McKenzie Friend facility in Scottish courts as a matter of urgency. 'Charmer' Robin Harper (Green) thought it common sense and suggested asking the Scottish Government directly if it will introduce McKenzie Friends and if not, why not. It had been agreed to write to the Scottish Government, Faculty of Advocates, Lord President of the Court of Session, Her Majesty’s Courts Service, Scottish Courts Service, Citizens Advice Scotland , Money Advice Scotland and the Scottish Consumer Council seeking responses to the points raised in the petition.

Nigel Don (SNP) made the point McKenzie Friends were not something introduced by Government, it was something which the courts in England & Wales simply allowed. Bill Butler MSP, I think it was, asks a novel question - what evidence is there McKenzie Friends work?


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Faster Divorce and Foreign Law

A recent report European Family Law: Faster Divorce and Foreign Law, written by David Hodson and published by the Centre for Social Justice makes the following recommendations;

The principle of first to issue, lis pendens, in European Family Law directly encourages international couples to rush to the divorce court to gain personal and financial advantage over the other spouse. It must be removed at the very earliest opportunity; it is thoroughly anti-family, anti-settlement and contrary to the whole ethos of family law and family life.

A number of European countries will not necessarily apply their own law in certain circumstances, but the family law of the country with which the couple in matrimonial proceedings have a close connection (known as applicable law). England and Wales only ever apply English family law, built up over centuries to create a sense of fairness and justice in the English and Welsh courts and for English and Welsh settlements. Brussels wants to impose applicable law on the UK. This would create much injustice and unfairness, increase costs of getting a divorce settlement and decrease prospects of settlements.

The country with the closest connection to an international couple should be able to deal with their case and then apply its local law to their matrimonial proceedings.

Brussels should go more slowly in its programme of European family law reform to take account of the very different traditions of family life and family law around Europe. Some seemingly minor changes in family law can have dramatic impact on relationships, families and community life and need much care and reflection before implementation.

Full report (pdf) available from the Centre For Social Justice


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

SLAB Chief Arrested

Campaigner for legal reform Peter Cherbi of A Diary of injustice in Scotland has picked up on a newspaper story about a Scottish Legal Aid Board chief being arrested and charged with criminal charges of soliciting a boy prostitute. Douglas Haggarty, who is Chief of Legal Services at the Scottish Legal Aid Board, has sat on various Scottish Government consultation groups which included the most senior members of the legal profession, the Law Society of Scotland, and even senior Police officers.

According to the newspaper Paul McBride QC, a senior board member of the Scottish Legal Aid Board was representing Haggarty asked the Crown Office to drop the charges against his client, on the grounds 'there was not enough evidence to convict', and now the Procurator Fiscal has decided to drop proceedings .

Peter Cherbi makes a point that clients should have a right to know their solicitor's criminal records.


Monday, May 4, 2009

John MacLean

After posting a video yesterday I found this one of the song John MacLean March which seems appropriate for a May Day holiday. John MacLean was a Scottish schoolteacher and revolutionary socialist known mainly as a Marxist educator and for his outspoken opposition to the First World War. Charged with offences of sedition in relation to anti-conscription speeches he served prison sentences but was released after sustained national and international pressure. MacLean refused the 'free pardon' by the King, stating that the workers who had campaigned on his behalf had earned him his freedom and not the King. He died aged 44, his health ruined by constant political activity, five terms of imprisonment, the period of hunger strike and the subsequent force feeding by prison authorities. The lyrics of the song are here.

Source University of Strathclyde

The song was written by Scottish poet, songwriter, soldier, and intellectual Hamish Henderson. Hamish was a central figure in the creation of the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh and is thought by some to be the most important Scots poet since Robert Burns. He spoke 6 European languages and in 1945, personally accepted the surrender of Italy from Marshal Graziani. In 1983 he refused an OBE in protest at the nuclear arms policy of the Thatcher government. I had the privledge of meeting him on many occasions and this weekend I reread his biography Hamish Henderson - The Making Of The Poet by Timothy Neat.

Source Obituary, The Independent 12 March 2002

The singer is Scottish musician, singer, and songwriter Dick Gaughan. Gaughan lists his greatest influences as Karl Marx, Groucho Marx, Flann O'Brien, Bert Jansch, Betty Frieden, John Lennon, Vladimir Illych Lenin, Hugh MacDiarmid, Tim Berners-Lee, Davy Graham, Doc Watson, Hank Williams, Jeannie Robertson, Ewan MacColl, Somerled, Bertolt Brecht, his mother (Gaughan's mother, not Brecht's), his father (likewise), his grandparents, Calgacus, Dolina MacLennan, Crazy Horse, Sandy Denny, Martin Carthy, Clarence White, Sean O'Riada, Jack Mitchell, John MacLean, Big Bill Broonzy, Hamish Henderson, Robert Burns and everybody else he ever met, read, saw, heard or spoke with.

Source Dick Gaughan website


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Saving Iraq From the Iraqis

Nothing to do with divorce but as the Government announced the end to UK combat operations in Iraq on Thursday I dug out this video set to Tom Paxton's song "George W. Told The Nation." Tom has written political and "short shelf life" songs for years. (BTW I see from Tom's website it's Pete Seeger's 90th birthday today!) This song, about the surge in the Iraq war, was a rewrite of his 1965 song entitled "Lyndon Johnson Told The Nation", about the escalation of the war in Vietnam.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Making Me Smile....

.. on the internet this week

Poster: Judges just treat you as though you are a porn.

Posted By Captain Oates on 28-04-2009
Just wanted to say, on reflection, I think she is pretending to be someone she is not.

1st Poster: I know every situation is different but hey thats why 90%of men end up in contact centres.

Me: Oh my, where did that figure come from?

US trained attorney: I fear that like 73.2% of statistics, it was made up on the spot.

2nd Poster: "90%of men end up in contact centres
Where did that figure come from?"

Too much reliance on car ­base­d satellite navigation hardware

Mr Familoo wanting to know if Lord Justice Wall's judgement quoting Philip Larkin -

"They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you."

- is what they call 'poetic justice.'

Lastly how to insult 30,000 people all at the same time .......
Me: By their very nature divorce forums will attract a disproportionate number of posers who are most likely to see matters in a subjective way ..... (dodgy 't' key :blush:)


Friday, May 1, 2009

McKenzie Petition

A petition urging the Scottish Government to introduce a McKenzie Friend facility in Scottish Courts as a matter of urgency has been lodged for consideration by the Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee on Tuesday 5 May 2009. The main petition (submitted by Stewart MacKenzie!) is supported by a letter from the consumer magazine Which? and a briefing from Scottish Parliament Information Centre(SPICe) .

Source Scottish Parliament 21 April 2009


Justifying CSA Enforcement Measures

Yesterday Janet Paraskeva, chairman of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission that assumed control of the CSA from the Department for Work and Pensions last November, put into context the tough measures going through the Lords to recover child maintenance. The Welfare Reform Bill, which received its second reading yesterday, would allow C-MEC to suspend the driving licences and passports of persistent non-payers.

By the time the Child Support Agency (CSA) seeks the withdrawal of a parent’s driving licence under existing powers, the ordinary tools of CSA enforcement — deduction from earnings orders, civil liability orders, the bailiffs — will already have been exhausted. Days in court will have come and gone. In one recent case it took six years and no fewer than seven court appearances to separate one particularly evasive debtor from his driving licence.

These powers will shift the heavy procedural burden away from the State — which will already have satisfied the courts about the nature and extent of the liability — and towards the defendant. He or she will have to engage more promptly with the system or find life much less convenient.

On more than 900 occasions in 2007-08 hearings where the CSA applied for the most serious sanctions presently at its disposal — imprisonment or driving disqualification — on 695 occasions the defendants did not even turn up. That represented a fifth of all such hearings that year and a significant cost to the taxpayer.

The agency must, in these circumstances, endure further delay and the expense of taking out an arrest warrant to bring the defendant forcibly before the court. What a waste of public money and unnecessary further delay to the parent caring for the child without his or her maintenance.

We want to more effectively target the people, relatively few in number, who lie, move house, change jobs or put assets in the name of new partners in order to keep one step ahead of the law and avoid paying for their children.

More than 55,000 non-resident parents in Britain owe £30,000 or more in maintenance debt.

Full story Source The Times 30 April 2009


Wikivorce Scotland

Today Wikivorce, the online divorce support community launched a Scottish section.

The Scottish site offers all the usual tools to be found on Wiki currently, the forums, the blogs, the chatroom, etc, but with added forum sections specifically for Scottish law and a separate library for Scotland, including guides on divorce procedures, links to organisations and charities, information on pensions, and downloadable free court forms.

Wikivorce Scotland is the only web community of its kind that is devoted solely to separation and divorce in Scotland. In addition to the information we can offer, our members also offer each other much needed emotional and moral support during what is a very difficult time. It is this support that makes Wikivorce unique, as we are a community, and not just a list of facts and information.


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