Shared Parenting Scotland endorses judge’s view that court is not for solving ‘relationship disputes’

Shared Parenting Scotland endorses judge's view that court is not for solving 'relationship disputes'

Ian Maxwell

Shared Parenting Scotland has endorsed the view of an English judge that court is not the forum for solving “relationship disputes”.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, issued a blunt reminder to parents that courts are not the best place to resolve such problems, which are at the root of many disagreements about how to share parenting of children after divorce or separation.

He made the comments on BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme yesterday. Shared Parenting Scotland said it supports a change of culture in Scotland to move away from the adversarial ‘winner takes all’ approach of so many child contact and residence cases.

National manager, Ian Maxwell, said: “Our system is no better in Scotland. Court cases take too long, their outcome is unpredictable and inconsistent between courts and encourages separated parents to undermine each others worth and competence to win the case. We completely agree with Sir Andrew that parents are fooling themselves if they think that the process doesn’t harm their children.”

Talking about the time that cases take in court, Sir Andrew said: “Research shows consistently that if you’re the child of parents who are at odds with each other, whether or not they are coming to court, that is unhealthy. It does your head in to put it in straightforward terms.”

He also said: “The hostile, adversarial language used in family court often made things worse and needs to change.” He compared the problem to the bitter divorce battle made famous in the 1979 film Kramer vs. Kramer.

Mr Maxwell added: “We also agree with Sir Andrew that there should be alternative, less adversarial routes to helping parents resolve their disagreements after separation or divorce. Parents need support in putting the broad welfare of their children first exactly at the time when they may be least able to do it amid the disruption of their relationship break up.

“Our children and their parents really need less court, not more.”

Shared Parenting Scotland is presently running a pilot of a programme called New Ways For Families that helps parents learn the emotional and communication skills that reduce time wasted on unproductive hostility and brings them back to the priority of putting their children first.

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