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Stage 1 Report Family Law Bill, 07/07/05 [S]

The Scottish Parliament's Justice 1 Committee have given a 'cautious welcome' to the Family Law Bill. In their stage 1 report, published on 7 July 2005, the Committee has recommended a full review of existing relationship support services in Scotland, and an investigation into the practicality of developing a Scottish wide system of specialist family courts.

In the report the Committee have:

  • recommended a full review of existing relationship support services to identify what services are needed and any structural and resourcing issues (the Committee see merit in 'one stop shop' model similar to the Australian model)

  • recommended an investigation into the practicality of developing a Scottish wide system of specialist family courts

  • urged the Executive to require the Scottish Courts Service to radically overhaul its system for recording court proceedings in order to collate statistics centrally


Parental rights and responsibilities (PRRs)

  • welcomed PRRs for unmarried fathers via joint registration - agrees should be retrospective

  • not supported a rebuttle presumption against contact if domestic violence is an issue

  • not supported a presumption of equal parenting time, believing that the court should not be constrained in this way and child's best interests are key

  • have serious concerns about the practical effects of PRRs and urge the Executive to consider its position on this matter with urgency - health boards and education authorities have not been given specific guidance on the exercise of PRRs since 1995 Act was passed leading to an inconsistent approach across the country

  • agreed with the Executive's stance on PRRs for grandparents (no automatic rights) but would like the Execytive to address how the role of grandparents can be reinforced in the parental agreement and how the 1995 Act has operated in relation to grandparents, including whether the cost of applying for contact orders is prohibitive to grandparents

  • called on the Executive to review existing provisions of 1995 Act in relation to step-parents and take steps to publicise to step-parents provisions


Divorce

  • supported reducing the non-cohabitation periods required for divorce in principle (faster divorces) however consensus has not been reached on whether the periods (2 years without consent and 1 year with consent) are correct as there is insufficient social research

  • recommended the Executive look at the possibility of introducing a joint petitioning system in Scotland


Protection against domestic abuse

  • recommended the Executive should simplify the law in relation to protection against domestic abuse (occupancy rights and domestic violence; interdicts and powers of arrest)


Legal rights for cohabitants
  • broadly supported in principle introducing legal rights for cohabitants


The report, Justice 1 8th Report, 2005: Stage 1 Report on Family Law (Scotland) Bill, is available on the Scottish Parliament's website.

The stage 1 debate on the Bill is due to be held in September 2005.

Further Information

  1. Stage 1 Report on Family Law (Scotland) Bill