Proposed amendments to Children (Scotland) Bill

Shared Parenting Scotland has published our suggested amendments to the Children (Scotland) Bill in advance of the Stage 1 Debate on the Bill on Wednesday 27th May.

This follows publication of the Justice Committee’s Stage 1 Report, and our document also includes notes of where the Committee has already asked for changes ion these areas.  The Government response to the Stage 1 Report makes very few changes to the Bill.

Overall we are calling for the new legislation and the accompanying Family Justice Modernisation Strategy to make a radical change to the way decisions are made about the arrangements for children in separated families and a move away from the current adversarial approach to family court cases.

Countries across the world are already making such changes to meet the needs of 21st century family life.  Most recent example we have come across is Singapore, where the Government accepted all the recommendations to reform their family justice system, including a mandatory parenting programme, more support for divorcing families, improved training and accreditation for family lawyers and a shift to judge led proceedings.

Our suggested amendments to the Scottish Bill are: remove the terms “contact” and “residence” from the naming of court orders, create proper checklist including points such as starting consideration with shared parenting, making contact decisions quickly, stressing the importance of relationships with grandparents and checking whether children’s views have been unduly influenced.

We also seek changes to the way decisions are made about parental responsibilities for unmarried fathers and for the Bill to include provision for parenting coordinators to be appointed by the court to support parents and children once an order has been made and also help in explaining court decisions.

Following the Stage 1 debate the Justice Committee will start to consider amendments to the Bill.