Modernising family justice.
New legislation aims to ensure that children’s best interests are at the centre of every family law case and that children’s views are heard by the court.
The Children Bill will further strengthen the family law system. Proposals include regulation of child contact centres to ensure they are safe places for children to meet family members.
Child welfare reporters, who may be appointed when the court has been asked to resolve a dispute between parents, will also be regulated. This will ensure reporters are trained to understand and respond to issues such as domestic abuse and coercive control.
Other improvements for domestic abuse victims and their children include allowing special measures such as screens and a live video links to be used in Child Welfare Hearings, and prohibiting a party from conducting their own case if there is a vulnerable witness.
Community Safety Minister Ash Denham said:
“We know that family breakdown can be very upsetting for children. It is our responsibility to ensure 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 ensuring their voice is heard, including younger children.
“Children’s welfare is paramount and we have been guided by their views and experiences in developing this bill. More than half of responses to the consultation came via our child-friendly questionnaire.”
A Family Justice Modernisation Strategy has also been published, setting out additional work to improve the operation of family justice through secondary legislation, enhanced guidance and longer term work.
In 2018, the Scottish Government consulted on reviewing Part 1 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. 550 consultation responses were received, including 300 to the child friendly questionnaire.
The Scottish Government met children and young people through Scottish Women’s Aid, the Scottish Youth Parliament and youth centres. The Children’s Parliament also engaged with children on behalf of the Scottish Government to explore their views and ideas on themes raised in the consultation.