Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Hug Song

Merry Christmas everyone  and a virtual hug to anyone separated from their loved ones today. 


Monday, December 24, 2012

The Children Desperate to Go Into Care

Members of Holyrood's Education Committee  are taking  evidence for an ongoing inquiry into how decisions are made about when and whether children should be taken into care. Last week four MSP Education Committee members attended  sessions to  hear about young people's experiences before, during and after leaving state care. Although some of the 9 young people the MSPs met felt that the availability of more support for their parents beforehand may have prevented them having being placed in care  7 insisted they had been taken into care too late. Stephen Naysmith's full article "Revealed: The children desperate to go into care is in today's Herald. 


Saturday, December 22, 2012

An Engineer's Christmas

Long time since this first did the rounds but it keeps budding engineers entertained . This list might help you recognise a budding engineer . 

There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world.

However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist (except maybe in Japan) religions, this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according to the population reference bureau).

At an average (census) rate of 3.5children per household, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming there is at least one good child in each. Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 967.7 visits per second.

This is to say that for each Christian household with a good child,Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stocking, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney,jump into the sleigh and get onto the next house.

Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks.

This means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second -- 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run (at best) 15 miles per hour.

The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized LEGO set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself.

On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds.

Even granting that the "flying" reindeer can pull 10 times the normal amount, the job can't be done with eight or even nine of them -- Santa would need 360,000 of them. This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch).

600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance - this would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft reentering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would adsorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake.

The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip.

Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 mps in .001 seconds, would be subjected to acceleration forces of 17,000 g's. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.

Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now. Merry Christmas!

        Hat tip to the Chemical Department, University of Newcastle.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

News Round 3

Same sex marriage Scotland  

The draft bill to allow same-sex marriage in Scotland was  published on 12th December  as part of a new consultation on the detail of ministers' proposals to be put to the Scottish Parliament. 

Rise in child abduction
New figures reveal that the number of parental child abduction cases dealt with by the Foreign Office has risen by 88% in under a decade.

"The government has just introduced equal shared care" ... No it hasn't 
The Government intends to introduce a  statutory  presumption that both parents should normally be involved in the life of a   child in  England & Wales.  Last week  the Justice Committee raised concerns that this  would be misunderstood by parents  as a right to 50:50 equal time parenting. To illustrate the point within a matter of hours after the  Government announced its response to the consultation regarding  changes to the Children Act 1989 one father tried to exercise the right to equal shared care in court. 

Source Family Law

Sesame Street Tool Kit
Sesame Street has just launched a tool kit to help family, friends and others help children through divorce. 

Sibling Contact 
Vicki Straiton, solicitor, cl@n   writes about the legal obstacles in Scotland to separated siblings seeking contact with each other.  In this article she raises concerns that the obstacles aren't effectively addressed in the Children and Young People Bill.

Boris Johnson, Alex Salmond and shopping for divorce
Scottish solicitor Lucia Clark asks in her blawg Do rich divorcing wives fare better in court in London, rather than elsewhere in the world? Apparently not always.  Lucia is a dual qualified solicitor (England/Wales and Scotland) and deals with cases on both sides of the border. 


Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Sun's Comin' Over The Hill

Singer/ songwriter Karine Polwart recently headed the Guardian's Best World and Folk Albums of 2012 with her new album.   A number of years ago Karine worked for Scottish Women's Aid and at one point she worked with us at the  Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin. Her  songwriting is often influenced by her previous work with Scottish  Women's Aid. This is a great song about overcoming  adversities. 

Karine performed The Sun's Comin' Over The Hill at Cambridge Folk Festival this year. On cue the heavens opened and we all were drenched,  even those of us who were under cover!


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Children & Families Bill - Pre-legislative Scrutiny

Background - During  November 2011 the Family Justice Review panel published its final report setting out its key conclusions and recommendations for the family justice system in England & Wales. The review  was sponsored jointly by the Ministry of Justice  the Department for Education  and the Welsh Assembly Government. It was led by an independent review panel, chaired by David Norgrove.The panel was asked to consider reform of the current systems for:

  • resolving disputes about contact with children and where they should live when couples break up (private law);                        
  • the process of divorce; and
  • processes when local authorities apply to the courts to take children into care (public law)

Earlier this year the Government accepted the majority of the panel's recommendations including  helping and encouraging parents to resolve their disputes outside of court, introducing Child Arrangement Orders, speeding up care cases and  establishing a Family Justice Board to drive performance improvements to the system  Child Arrangement Orders were recommended to do away with the loaded terminology of "residence" and "contact" which, it was said, create a perception  of winning and loosing. In the final report of the review panel  the earlier suggestion to change the law so there would be a clause  that children have the right to a meaning relationship  with both parents was dropped. To this the Government  responded by saying it intended to introduce a clause too this effect anyway.  There followed   consultation (see Government's response here),  the Children and Families Bill was  drafted  and yesterday the Justice Committee published it's report on the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. 

Child Arrangement Orders -  s2(3) of the Bill reads  "child arrangements order means an order regulating arrangements relating to any of the following ; (a)  with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact …  The Justice Committee thinks that the meaning of a Child Arrangement or Child Arrangement Order is unclear  and it's unlikely a change to the wording of orders from  will remove the perception of winners and losers within the family courts. CAOs wouldn't change how international law relating to children operates and there is  a risk that the change in terms  away from contact and residence may be hard to interpret in other jurisdictions.

Shared Parenting - The legislative statement "to presume, unless the contrary is shown, that involvement of that parent in the life of the child concerned will further the child's welfare" is to be inserted into the Children Act 1989 by means of s1a  Children  and Families  Bill. The Justice Committee sees no point to  this as it doesn't change the current position. The law already acknowledges that a meaningful  relationship with both parents is generally in a child's best interests. In the Co-operative Parenting Consultation one of the most common complaints is problems with enforcement rather than the order the court made. 

The Justice Committee concludes; 

187. In our view, it is unlikely that the draft clause on shared parenting, on its own, will change perceptions of bias within the family court system, many of which are entrenched. It is possible that, in combination with changes to MIAMs and Child Arrangements Orders, there may be an overall improvement however slight in perceptions, but on balance, we think that is unlikely. Although the draft clause could lead to a few parents reaching agreement because their perception of the likely outcome of the Court process has changed, given the fact that these will be cases in which there is already a high degree of conflict, this is also unlikely.

188. We have considered the problems raised by individuals who provided evidence of their experiences, and we believe that the absence of enforcement of court orders is a bigger factor in the perception problem than the content of those orders. This makes it regrettable that the Government has not brought forward draft legislation on enforcement for us to consider as part of this pre-legislative scrutiny. Considering our conclusions on all four questions, we maintain significant concerns about whether the draft clause is a necessary or desirable legislative change.

189. We consider that any legislation on this subject, when interpreted objectively, should retain the paramountcy of the welfare of the child, and should prevent shared parenting orders being made where the child is at risk of harm, and/or where, whatever the level of parental involvement, that involvement would not further the welfare of the child. The problem, as we identify it, is how the clause will be subjectively interpreted by parents who appear before the Court, or who agree arrangements for residence and contact without a Court order, but on the basis of what they understand the law to say and mean. The distinction is one of technical drafting versus the practical effect on real families. We recognise concerns about the inclusion of the draft clause, and we consider that if the Government includes the clause in the Bill as introduced, the revised wording which we suggest may reduce the likelihood of its effects being misinterpreted.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Raise in Court Fees

The Scottish Government’s Fees Orders for Court of Session, Sheriff Court, High Court, Justice of the Peace court and Office of the Public Guardian  fees took effect from Monday 10 December 2012. That means in the Sheriff Court  the fees for an initial writ in an action of divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership are now £136,  or £104 under the simplified procedure. Initial writs in proceedings which are not prescribed in the table are £87.  Further information and fees tables available from the  Scottish Courts website.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New Child Support Scheme

Yesterday saw the introduction of the new "gross income" child support  scheme (CS3). Initially only new cases with four or more children in the same family will be assessed under the new scheme. Once this is found to be working satisfactorily the new  rules will be applied to new cases  with with two or more children. Then  the changes will be applied to all new cases  and eventually there will be a gradual transfer of the existing cases.

Under the new rules  the paying parent's income will be established from the most recent Tax Return and child maintenance will be calculated on a lower percentage depending on the number of children. The definition of "child" has changed  so children continuing "non advanced" eduction will qualify for child support until the age of 20. That brings the rules in line with Child Benefit.

Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 (Commencement No. 10 and Transitional Provisions) Order 2012

Article Lindsays Solicitors 


Monday, December 10, 2012

Forced Marriage Protection Order

A year after Scotland introduced new legislation to safeguard individuals rights  an unnamed individual has obtained the second  protection order to prevent them being forced into marriage.  Health Secretary Alex Neil said "Forced marriage affects men as well as women and children and our legislation was designed to protect anyone living in fear or those who are being intimidated in any way."


Legal Rights Claims

Unlike England in Scotland (and indeed in several other countries) “legal rights”  is the automatic right in the estate of a deceased  in favour of the deceased’s spouse or children,  regardless of  whether the deceased died testate or intestate.  In the case Hutton’s Trustees v Hutton’s Trustees Lord Salvesen said; 

I regard the right that the law gives to children in their father’s estate, in common with the laws of most civilised countries except England, as a very important check on capricious or unjust testaments” 

In this article Peter Murrin looks at the steps to be taken when there is an unexpected legal rights claim against an estate from someone  coming  to light after the death of the deceased.

Source  Journal  Law Society of Scotland 


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Something Karen Woodall Did For FNF Scotland

In an earlier blog I mentioned Karen Woodall  of the Centre For Separated Families was giving talks about her work with high conflict families experiencing parental alienation at an event organised by  FNF (Scotland)  last week.   Karen has posted this  video taken at the event on her website. 


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Good Reason to Take a Flight to Shetland

I was going to post a video of the Scottish singer/songwriter Karine Polwart whose songwriting is often influenced by her previous work with Scottish  Women's Aid. However another Scottish musician, Adam Sutherland,  tipped me off about this CCTV  footage apparently taken from behind a bar on the ferry to Shetland so I've postponed Karine until another time. The video has nothing to do with family relationships,  although I'm sure I could find  a link with Rod Stewart if I really tried.  

This incredible footage has  particular significance for me. Those who have met me will be aware that I hobble about on crutches these days. Over the last couple of years I've been on ships in  rough seas  a few times and because I don't have a hand free to hold on to anything I've  relied on physics to get about  i.e.  the greater the  momentum forwards  the less chance there is of  being thrown about laterally. This works  well and I often manage a lot better than those who are more able bodied,  although I wasn't entirely sure how to take it when someone  said I was like a Bat Out of  Hell.    Somehow I don't think my forwards momentum strategy would work on the ferry to Shetland so in future   I'll be flying when I go there.   


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Debates on Shared Parenting and Research

I have plans to do a series of blogs about shared parenting  but in the meantime there has been some debate sparked off by the publication  in November of the Nuffield study “Taking a longer view of contact: perspectives of young adults who experienced parental separation”.  This research  looks at how the contact arrangements made by separating parents for their children affect children’s long-term relationships with their parents throughout their childhood and then into adulthood.

Initial reaction to the summary  from Lucy Reed of Pink Tape was that the authors were perhaps leaving themselves open to accusations of having an agenda  and the child's experience would be drowned out by the noise that follows. Karen Woodall of the Centre for Separated Families  said "the ‘lens’ through which this study has been undertaken is clearly that which is informed by the feminist hostility towards fathers and their relationship with their children." 

In the Researching Reform  post Nuffield's Foundation Latest Research on Shared Parenting Legislation Natasha Phillips makes the point there are always two  sides. The controversy is over the validity of the viewpoint of young adults of separated parents  who experienced contact arrangements in childhood. After the research coming  under fire from fathers' groups  and others many have jumped on the bandwagon and not looked before they leaped.   The next post Question It? asks "does the use of childhood memories and their interpretation by young adults who experience these memories make the research less valuable?" In the third post Shared Parenting: A Presumptuous Proposition  Natasha argues a presumption of shared parenting is a presumption too far and the family justice system doesn't need more law. 

The main aim of my blog is signposting and I would encourage readers to read the research  and debates for themselves without wearing rose-tinted glasses before making up their own minds.  For what it is worth I think  research based on peoples' accounts of events and open to interpretation should be treated   with caution. Nonetheless this type of study does give a voice to people who  would otherwise not be heard which is a good thing  and leads to further investigation.  

[As well as author of Researching Reform  Natasha Phillips is a consultant for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Family Law  and The Court of Protection and author of  Divorce Manual. The link takes you to an interview with me in 2009 and it's interesting reading back that I was complaining about the lack of specialist family courts in Scotland which are now on the cards!]  


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fall of Divorce Rates and Court Cases

News of a fall in the Scottish divorce rate this afternoon;

The number of people getting divorced in Scotland fell by 2% in the last year to 9,453, official figures have revealed.
The most common reason for splitting up was that the couples had not lived together for the last year.
Source BBC

Earlier today figures were released indicating there has been a fall in the number of cases brought before the civil courts including family cases.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

English Solicitors Urged to be Rude

An article written by Scottish solicitor Lucia CLark  of Morton Fraser last week urged  English solicitors to be rude when dealing with cross-border divorce applications between Scotland and England & Wales.

In England & Wales solicitors there is a  a Family Law Protocol  and the family lawyers organisation, Resolution, also publishes Guides to Good Practice. The  aim is to  encourage out of court settlements. It is considered  good practice  to send  a draft of a divorce petition to the other spouse to check if they will agree not to defend the divorce and give them the chance to object to a particular allegation.

Of course Scotland has it's own legal system with different divorce procedures. There is no practice in Scotland of sending a draft divorce writ for approval.   If a solicitor in England  writes to a Scottish solicitor notifying them of the intention to commence divorce proceedings the  Scottish solicitor's response will be  to  raisie a divorce action in Scotland. The convention is that the country where divorce proceedings are first initiated has jurisdiction. So Lucia's advise to English solicitors is be less polite!

The lesson for a spouse  who lives in England & Wales and wants to divorce someone living in Scotland is ensure your solicitor appreciates the law is different in Scotland  and  they know to issue proceedings  without notice. 

Full article  Family Law


Monday, December 3, 2012

Family Law Blogs Scotland

After my long break I thought  there would be a few more  divorce and family law bloggers in Scotland by now to keep me company. I  tried a search engine and was somewhat surprised to find my blog mentioned on  The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland website  Iain Nisbet of Absolvitor reviews eleven Scottish blawggers to keep an eye on in 2011. If I'd have known that I would have come back a lot sooner!

Unfortunately there still doesn't appear much in the way of interaction  between family law bloggers here. If anyone knows of someone please let me know. However,  Stephen Moore of CaseCheck  left  me a comment  back in 2010 about their latest site Family Law Edinburgh which has a lot of useful information and a Family Law News section which I have now added to my blogroll.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Novel Way of Collecting Child Support

We have all heard of protesting dads but this summer in the music festival season I came across this one mum's revenge. I think this is a beautiful song well sung although apparently  it was as written before  this particular tale was told -  ("you will breathe no more" is artistic licence, I presume!)


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Collaborative Law

I have been through the links on my blog and discovered some obsolete and broken ones. One obsolete link was for Collaborative Family Lawyers Scotland which  is now called  Consensus.

For those readers who are new to family separation collaborative law  is a process where separating spouses each choose their own lawyer.  Both spouses and their respective lawyers meet to work out an agreement that can work for the family around the table. The clients and  lawyers sign an agreement that commits the spouses to trying to resolve the issues without going to court and prevents the lawyers from working on the case if the collaborative process breaks down.  Before the round the table meetings  each spouse has  a preliminary meeting  with their own lawyer to discuss what needs to be done and to prepare beforehand.

The advantages of collaborative law is that everyone is committed to finding agreement rather than going to court,  it avoids conflict  so there is no unnecessary damage to long term family relationships and other professionals such as accountants or counsellors can be brought into the process. Because there are no court proceeding the cost are kept down. The disadvantage is if no agreement is reached the spouses have to pay for the collaborative lawyers and then conventional lawyers.  


Friday, November 30, 2012

Families Need Fathers Scotland

I don't remember exactly when, but sometime during my absence from blogging Families Need Fathershave opened a Scottish office. With Ian Maxwell at the helm as National Development Manager the FNF(S) website has  has useful news section and resources to assist party litigants. On Tuesday 4 December Karen Woodall of the Centre For Separated Families  will talk of her work with high conflict families experiencing parental alienation. There is  afternoon event is intended for professionals working with families, and the evening event for FNF members and others affected by parental alienation although these events are open to all.  Further information available here. 


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sorting Out Separation

This initiative launched today by the UK Government  is a response to the   Family Justice Review in England & Wales  which recommended establishing an online hub to give information and support to help couples resolve issues following divorce or separation outside of courts. I think it is a step in the right direction and I have added a link  in the right hand bar. 
Scottish readers need to be aware  that although the app was launched by the DWP for Britain and talks about going through the UK courts to divorce  the legal section  refers to England & Wales.  Wikivorce  is signposted for information about the law in Scotland. The sections on parenting, budgeting, benefits etc will, of course, be useful to parents on both sides of the border.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thoughts on Equal Time Shared Care

Equal time shared care is just another thing for parents to argue about and not really about the welfare of children. The biggest obstacle to parents sharing caring 50:50 after separation is the absence of shared care 50:50 before separation* and that is because of the working practices in the UK. Most men with dependent children work in full time inflexible jobs where as around 60% of women with dependent children in the UK don't work or work in part time lower paid flexible jobs to fit around childcare.** Countries with more equal opportunities have higher employment rates among women, more shared care before parents separate and higher estimated rates of shared care 50:50 after separation. 

"Residence," "contact" and "shared residence" are terms that leave parents with a sense of winning or losing and make it difficult to negotiate or mediate arrangements.***  Parental Responsibility and Rights means  legally  both parents already have equal responsibility and rights to carry out those responsibilities. I think  education explaining this to separated parents, encouraging them  to put the needs of their children first and giving them strategies for dealing with conflict is the way to go.

Continuity of care is important "it is generally  accepted that the preservation of the status quo operates for the benefit of the child ... " Family Law In Scotland - Joe Thomson 

**  Focus On Gender 2008

*** "We recommend government should develop a child arrangements order, which would set out arrangements for the upbringing of a child when court determination of disputes related to the care of children is required. The new order would move away from loaded terms such as residence and contact which have themselves become a source of contention between parents, to bring greater focus on practical issues of the day to day care of the child…"  Family Justice Review


Back From Far Far Away

Actually apart from the usual holidays I haven't been that far, just  busy. Since I last blogged three years ago some very important things  have happened. My last  posts were about the launch  in  Scotland of the Civil Courts Review and the Reaction to the Review.  In England & Wales the Family Justice Review Final Report  was published in November 2011 and reform in both countries  is now underway.

In light of criticism of procedure and practice in children cases in the case of BvG earlier this year, the Murray Stables held an event Changing the Culture  to discuss the potential for a new culture. Family therapist and retired family psychiatrist, Nick Child, attended and added a new section  Children Resisting Post-Separation Contact With a Parent to his website. I think this is the best and most comprehensive internet resource about children resisting contact/Parental Alienation  in the UK I have seen.

The UK Government have held various child support consultations and a new gross income scheme has started to be implemented. Initially only new cases will be assessed under the new rules with existing cases being transferred over a number of years. The Child Support Maintenance  Calculation Regulations 2012 are available here

So that's three years in a nutshell. I'm now off to get rid of all the spam on my blog and update the judgements and links in the right hand bar so that the blog is up and running again.


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