Family law consultation submission

Families Need Fathers Scotland has submitted our response to the Scottish Government Consultation, alongside about 280 other submissions.

Amongst the main points we made were proposals for extending parental rights and responsibilities, creating a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting in Scottish law, family court cases to be conducted on an inquisitorial rather than an adversarial basis, compulsory mediation information and extended use of family mediation.

We also suggest that Scotland undertakes trials of the use of Parenting Co-ordinators to support families once an initial determination has been made in court or through mediation. These should be professionals coming from family law, mediation, family therapy or social work backgrounds, trained and experienced in all these areas so they can provide a more comprehensive and longer term service than Child Welfare Reporters, Curators or Safeguarders.

This type of work is now used extensively in the USA and other countries in order to assist, support and guide separating parents to work effectively after separation. Rather than the family courts having to make all minor decisions such as on pick-up details and holiday dates, the parenting co-ordinators are tasked by the court to do this work.

Parenting coordination is a hybrid ADR process used with high-conflict parents, and the PC wears many hats. The Association for Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) Task Force on Parenting Coordination (2006) defines parenting coordination as a child focused alternative dispute resolution process in which a mental health or legal professional with mediation training and experience assists high conflict parents to implement their parenting plan by facilitating the resolution of their disputes in a timely manner, educating parents about children’s needs, and with prior approval of the parties and/or the court, making decisions within the scope of the court order or appointment contract (p. 165).

Although the American experience is very positive, we would suggest a fully evaluated pilot scheme is the best way to fully explore whether this approach will benefit children and parents and provide significant cost savings.