Shared parenting launch in Edinburgh

10th March 2020

Roisin, John and I were delighted to brave the wintery weather last month to attend the launch of Shared Parenting Scotland, where parents, practitioners and civil servants gathered to discuss the incoming changes to family law in Scotland.

The Children (Scotland) Bill is currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament and is set to make changes to the legislation that we have had in place for nearly 25 years and, if passed, will make significant practical changes to court disputes about the care of children.

The key aim remains to promote and protect the child’s best interests and to make sure their views are heard. Many of the changes are child-centred and no doubt flow from the Scottish Government’s stated intention of strengthening the rights of children in Scotland as much as possible.

The main takeaway for me is an increasing attempt to try and include children in disputes about their care. The bill signifies a growing recognition that children should be more involved. It will ensure there is a solid foundation to enable children to express their views, and the court must take their views into account.

This is not where the changes would end as the bill proposes a duty on the judge or sheriff to explain their decision to the child in an appropriate way. The aim is to encourage decision makers to make sure a child understands why a decision has been reached. Research suggests that children are much better at coming to terms with decisions which differ from their views if they have a sense that they were listened to and their views taken into account.

The bill is at the first stage in the Scottish Parliament. It will be interesting to see whether it is amended before being passed into law and, like many others, I will be keeping an eye on its progress. I will also be looking out for the Scottish Government’s bill to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law (which is expected this year), and what this will mean for the rights of children in Scotland.

Catriona Laidlaw

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