New Ways to Support Separating Couples

Recent events at Westminster have highlighted some “game-changing” developments in support for separating parents and their children. Although these changes are taking place south of the Border, we suggest they could easily be copied in Scotland.

PATHFINDER COURTS
The “game-changing” quote comes from Sir Andrew McFarlane, speaking to the Commons Justice Committee on 23rd April. He was referring to the Pathfinder family court hearings which are now being rolled out in Birmingham and Cardiff following a successful trial in Dorset and North Wales.

Their problem-solving approach emphasises child-focused solutions to contact disputes.

He described these changes in more detail in a recent contribution to the Westminster All Party Parliamentary Group on Family Separation

MEDIATION VOUCHERS

As well as changes in the working of family courts, parents heading towards court are now obliged to take part in a Mediation, Information and Assessment meeting (MIAMs) before the court hearings start. Alongside this strengthened compulsion, the English and Welsh mediation voucher scheme provides £500 towards the cost of parents using family mediation to reach agreement.

ONLINE GUIDANCE

The third and possibly most important change is the development of a new online source of guidance and information for separating parents. Speaking in a short debate in the House of Lords on 22nd April sandwiched between Rwanda Bill ping-pong votes, Justice Minister Lord Bellamy confirmed that this official site is being developed so that: “… parents know where to go and can find out, at a very early stage, all the sources of support out there.”

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN SCOTLAND?

We have highlighted the above developments because they should all help separating families in England and Wales to avoid the delays, costs and hostility of adversarial family court. Similar ideas were included in the 2020 Children (Scotland) Act, but none of these Scottish law changes have yet been implemented. Shared Parenting Scotland and other family charities are pressing for Scotland to catch up.

We have requested the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee to examine why there has been such a delay in implementing the Act, and will now contact all the Scottish parties to seek support for these positive new ways to support separating parents.

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