This section gives short responses to many of the questions that Shared Parenting Scotland is asked. Links within the answer lead to more detailed information. If you need more information on any of these topics please contact us on 0131 557 2440 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attending a Child Welfare Hearing
Parents who are involved in a family court case should always be allowed to attend Child Welfare Hearings unless the Sheriff has decided that this should not happen. Ordinary Cause Rule 33.22A (5) states that “All parties (including a child who has indicated his wish to attend) shall, except on cause shown, attend the Child Welfare Hearing personally.”
This was not possible in the early stage of lockdown due to restrictions in the telephone conferences used to conduct child welfare hearings, but now that all sheriff courts are using Webex video conferencing there should not be any problems in parents attending. In our response to the recent consultation on future online and face-to-face court hearings we stressed that family case court hearings should all return to face-to-face in court unless the hearing is only to conduct procedural business.
I have contact time with my kids coming up but my ex has told me they won’t come because of Coronavirus. What should I do.
If communication isn’t good with the other parent there is a tendency to be suspicious, quite apart from the upset that comes with losing time with your children. At the present moment (though the situation is changing at short notice) if neither the children nor their parent – or you – have been in direct contact with someone diagnosed with Coronavirus then contact ought to take place if there is agreement between parents or a court order. There is official guidance supporting this and the lockdown law includes this as an exclusion in the movement restrictions. Parent Club also has useful information
The decision might be being made in good faith, although overcautious. However, even if you are suspicious there is no great purpose in having an argument. Our advice is to demonstrate that you are a responsible parent with concern about your children’s health. You could reply – by text or e mail so you have a record of it – asking for some form of Face Time with your children during the time you should have had them. If the other parent is being genuine there will be no reason to refuse. If there is no prohibition on sending anything through the post you can send a cheery card saying that you hope to see them soon. Government guidance is that self-isolation should be 10 days if no symptoms have developed in the meantime.
Where do I start?
Start with the FAQs, which have been written to answer questions that are asked on our helpline, at group meetings or in WhatsApp groups. When necessary we consult experienced family lawyers to help ensure the accuracy and we try to avoid using legal jargon. Links to more detailed information are included where possible. If you can’t find the answer to your question try searching the whole site using the magnifying glass at top right of the screen. If nothing is found email or phone us with your question.
Should I represent myself in court?
We always advise people that it is best to have a lawyer if you are taking court, but we know that some people either can’t afford representation or have had such poor legal support in the past that they end up conducting their own case in court. Our Guide will help you LINK and we may also be able to link you with a lay supporter LINK. It is also worth trying to find a lawyer who can comment on what you are putting on the court papers before submitting them. There will be a cost for this service, but it costs far less than full representation and can help you avoid making errors in the way you present your case.
Can a 12 year old decide what happens about contact?
The current current Children (Scotland) Act says that the court should allow a child to express views and have regard to them as far as possible. It also says that the court should take account if the child’s age and maturity and that “a child twelve years of age or more shall be presumed to be of sufficient age and maturity to form a view” (section 6).
The Children (Scotland) Bill may extend or remove the mention of the age of 12. Whatever the age, the views of a child are not the deciding factor, although the older the child the more impact their views will have on the final decision.