Shared Parenting Scotland: Feedback in the aisles
Sheriffs across Scotland make decisions every day in contact/residence cases that will affect the lives of children not just for this month or this year but will influence their relationships for the rest of their life. Their decisions are made ‘in the best interests of the child’. But how does a sheriff ever know whether they got it right? A chance encounter in a supermarket gave Raymond (a pseudonym) a chance to give some feedback and get some back in return.
Prior to separating from the children’s mother, I was very involved as a father. I took care of them after school, handled the majority of bedtime and bath time routines, and had them with me most weekends.
At the time of our separation I naively believed we would work something that was close to what the children were used to. I was shocked to my core to receive a writ containing the most foul allegations and accusations as reasons why I should not see them at all.
Over the course of six years there were constant and ever-changing accusations and lies. When one falsehood was knocked on the head a fresh one would appear. It didn’t help that a succession of different sheriffs would see these as if for the first time and decide to proceed with caution which means carrying on disrupting my children’s relationship with me though one sheriff did begin to take ownership of the case.
I had no choice but to take it to proof where they would be tested under oath for the first time. Miraculously all accusations, worries, and fears were suddenly retracted on the morning of the proof. After years of slow progress in terms of “contact”. The sheriff granted three nights out of seven. I did manage to secure the right to inform the children that the court order is a guideline and if they wish to spend more time with me, they are allowed to do so.
About six months after the order, while walking down a street I unexpectedly encountered the sheriff. We made eye contact and exchanged a nod with a smile. I recognised him, and he recognised me.
Initially, I continued with my day but regretted not speaking to him and expressing my gratitude for changing my life and that of my children (for the better!).
I couldn’t stop thinking about what I should have done. However, a few days later amazingly I bumped into him again in the supermarket. This time I stopped and asked if he remembered me and if it was okay to shake his hand as a way of thanking him. He confirmed that he remembered me and indeed my case and happily shook my hand with a smile. I briefly updated him on how the children were adjusting. He was pleased to hear the news. I asked him to exercise whatever power or control he had over such situations and not let them drag on for so long. He acknowledged the difficulties and I expressed understanding of the challenging position sheriffs are placed in. Once again, I thanked him, and he bid me farewell by saying it was lovely to meet me again, and we went our separate ways.
I was brave enough to ask him what had changed in my case from his perspective. At one point, I was warned about my behaviour as a party litigant not being appropriate in tone.
He said that sometimes the parties don’t realise that from the bench the sheriff can see how everybody is behaving. He said that he saw over time that I was getting calmer and more focussed on how to make things work for my children. He didn’t say it but I guessed that he wasn’t getting the same vibe from the other side.
That sheriff doesn’t realise the significant impact he had on me and my case and my behaviour. Because he took ownership of my case I could see progress from the frustrating pattern of taking two steps forward and ten steps back that I had experienced before.
Now, I have much more time with my children, and I have been fortunate to witness their formative years as their father. Soon enough, they will become young adults, and I will transition into being just a Dad, gradually falling down their list of priorities. But for now, life is amazing. I try not to regret those lost years of their childhood and the waste of time, energy and money drowning in false allegations.
I am truly grateful to the sheriff. I owe my life to him, and the children now have a dad back in their life, again!