The Scottish Government issued a Consultation Paper relating to the reform of Child Law in Scotland earlier this year. The last date for submitting responses to the Consultation Paper is 7 August and individuals can make their views known if they wish to do so until that date.
There are various matters referred to in the Consultation Paper, but some of the main issues are as follows:~
A Child’s Views
At present, it is presumed that a child aged 12 or older is sufficiently mature to express his or her views. It is still possible for children of a younger age to express their views as part of court procedure, but it is being considered whether reference to 12 years of age should be removed. There is discussion about whether Child Support Workers should be created to take children’s views.
Unlike certain other countries, there is no presumption of shared care in child related cases in Scotland. Whilst there has been a change in emphasis in relation to shared care over the past few years, we still do not have such a presumption. Should the starting point be that there is a presumption that a child’s best interests would be served by way of a shared care arrangement?
It is being considered whether there should be a presumption that children should have contact with grandparents. In many occasions, upon separation, grandparents, who were often an integral part of a child’s life, are excluded.
Enforcement of Contact Orders
It is rare for a resident parent not to comply with a Contact Order. However, where this occurs, enforcement can be difficult. The court has the ultimate sanction of imprisoning a party who fails to comply with a Contact Order, but such a sanction is rare. Should the court have the power to require that person to undertake unpaid work or attend Parenting Classes?
The issue of Parental Alienation is something which is raised more and more frequently in courts in Scotland with each passing year. It is a fairly complex area. Options in relation to this are raised in the Consultation Paper.
The above are just a few of the points being considered. I would encourage anybody with an interest in Child Law to read the Consultation Paper and let the Scottish Government have your views. The Consultation Paper can be located on the Scottish Government website here.