Prioritising children’s interests in family court cases when parents separate.
The interests of children will be at the heart of family justice modernisation proposals, ministers have pledged.
The role of the courts in cases involving children of separated parents and the law around parental responsibilities and rights will be considered as part of a consultation on key themes to be included in a family justice modernisation strategy.
The Scottish Government is seeking the public’s views on issues including:
- How the court obtains the views of the child in family cases
- Protection of victims of domestic abuse and their children during family court proceedings
- Regulation of child contact centres and of child welfare reporters who advise sheriffs and judges in family court cases
- How children can maintain relationships with key adults in their lives
- Alternatives to court such as family mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution
- Aspects of the Children’s Hearing’s system, which aims to ensure the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children and young people
The consultation will also ask for opinions about changes to the law to prevent direct cross-examination of victims of domestic abuse by their alleged abusers in child contact cases before the civil courts.
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.”
Access the child friendly questions.
As part of improving how family cases are dealt with by the courts, the Scottish Government committed in Programme for Government to consulting on a review of the provisions of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 on parental responsibilities and rights and contact and residence cases involving children, with the goal of placing children and young people at the centre of family court cases.
The Programme for Government also set out the Scottish Government’s intention to consult on changes to the law to prevent cross-examination of victims of domestic abuse by their alleged abusers in child contact cases.
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