Petition seeks fixed fee application process for child contact orders

Petition 1984 submitted to the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament seeks to reduce the financial barriers that prevent parents from having contact with their children by introducing a Scottish equivalent to the English C100 court form, with a fixed fee, for making applications for child residence or child contact orders.

In our comment on this Petition Shared Parenting Scotland agrees that the current process for raising court actions is unduly difficult to understand and very hard for a lay person to use.  But rather than just introduce a new online court form, we suggest that online support for separating parents should be made available far earlier in the process.

We suggest that development of an online support gateway for the 30,000 parents who separate every year in Scotland would be far better than producing a new form to initiate court disputes.   The gateway could ask simple questions about the issues facing each parent and provide links to the available support.   It could also help each parent to compile a set of requirements and conditions, which are then automatically compared with the equivalent set prepared by the other parent to identify what is still in dispute.

Systems that do this are already in use in the Netherlands and Australia,  using online dispute resolution processes.  Mediators and family lawyers are available behind these systems to formalise agreements or step in in more complex cases.

If Scotland could develop its own online process  this could help to avoid the acrimonious discussion that often results from face-to-face discussion between ex-partners. It could also allow for introduction of the views of the children on arrangements that concern them.

The initial cost of this change would easily be recouped in savings to the public purse from all the separation disputes that don’t have to go anywhere near the family court.