Scottish Government pledges to prioritise children’s interests in family court cases

Written by Jenni Davidson on 18 May 2018 in News

The Scottish Government is consulting on plans to modernise the family justice system

Family - Image credit: Fotolia

The Scottish Government has promised to prioritise the interests of children in family court cases when parents separate, in proposed changes to the family justice system.

The role of the courts in cases involving children of separated parents and the law around parental rights and responsibilities are part of a Scottish Government consultation, which opened this week, on reform of the 1995 Children (Scotland) Act and the creation of a family justice modernisation strategy.

The Scottish Government is now looking for feedback on issues such as how the court obtains the views of the child in family cases, how children can maintain relationships with key adults in their lives and alternatives to court such as family mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.

Other issues to be considered are the children’s hearings system and the regulation of child contact centres and child welfare reporters.

In addition, the consultation asks for opinions about changes to the law to prevent cross-examination of victims of domestic abuse by their alleged abusers in child contact cases in civil courts and the protection of victims of domestic abuse and their children during family court proceedings.

Legal Affairs Minister Annabelle Ewing said: “We know that family breakdown can be very upsetting for children and it is our responsibility to ensure that the family justice system is supportive and does not contribute to their distress.

“That means putting the best interests of the child first in every case and feedback from this consultation will help us to identify where changes are needed.

“The often sensitive issues involved can give rise to competing viewpoints, and that is why we are looking for as wide a range of responses as possible to help shape the future of family law in Scotland.

“In this Year of Young People I am particularly keen to hear the views and first-hand experiences of children and young people and we have produced child-friendly questions to encourage them to get involved.”

The Scottish Government's family justice modernisation strategy has been in preparation for some time.

A summit to inform the strategy was held by the Scottish Government in March 2016, with a summary of the responses published online, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised a review of family law in April 2016.

The Scottish Government committed to consult on changes to the 1995 act and the forthcoming family law modernisation strategy in its programme for government in September 2017.

The consultation is open until 7 August 2018. There is also a simplified version of the consultation designed for children and young people.

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