Another consultation: Case management of court actions

The Scottish Civil Justice Council has launched a public consultation on the case management of family and civil partnership actions in the sheriff court. The consultation will run until 22 August 2018 and is likely to be followed by changes in court rules.

The Council’s Family Law Committee is considering ways to improve how family actions are dealt with in the sheriff court, particularly in order to prevent undue delay in proceedings relating to the welfare of children.

Having commissioned research into the effectiveness of Chapter 33AA of the Ordinary Cause Rules 1993 and considered a policy paper on case management by the Scottish Government, the Committee established a sub-committee in May 2017 to consider changes to court rules.

The sub-committee made a number of recommendations, including:

  • a new case management structure for all family and civil partnership actions in the sheriff court, not just those with a crave for an order under section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995;
  • allocating actions to a “fast track” or “proof track” procedure, as appropriate;
  • greater judicial control over the sisting (i.e. ‘pausing’ or staying) of family and civil partnership actions;
  • the adoption of abbreviated pleadings and more detailed witness lists;
  • judicial continuity insofar as possible;
  • provision allowing all family and civil partnership actions to be referred to mediation; and
  • greater judicial control over the use of expert witnesses.

This consultation is separate from the current Scottish Government consultation and covers issues which are the responsibility of the courts.  Ian Maxwell from Families Need Fathers Scotland was a member of the sub-committee which drew up these proposals. 

As National Manager of FNF Scotland, he comments: “Between these two consultations there is scope for making major improvements to the way family actions are dealt with both in court and outside.  We always advise parents to try their best to avoid court action, but if it does have to happen the court needs to deal with cases quickly and decisively.  Long-drawn out court proceedings and adversarial processes can cause major harm to children and parents and we look forward to any changes which can avoid that happening.”

“We encourage everybody to add their views to these two consultations.”