Charity calls for families to be forced to try mediation first.
Scotland’s outdated family law must change to stop children getting caught up in divorce court conflicts, a charity has blasted.
Relationships Scotland says the country is lagging behind the rest of the UK and is asking the Scottish Government, charities and family law experts to back their calls to make it a legal requirement that divorcing parents must consider mediation to prevent thousands of kids being stuck in the middle of court action.
The charity says the level of awareness and understanding about family mediation is low and is calling on all parties to prioritise the call for an urgent debate on the topic.
Stuart Valentine, chief executive of Relationships Scotland, said offering alternative dispute resolution options, such as mediation, is vital to get the best result for families.
“Parents often lose focus on their children as they battle with their ex-partner to determine who gets what, and who the children are going to live with,” he said.
We were struggling to work things out. Court is brutalNeil Pryde
“During a crisis or emotional meltdown it’s not realistic to expect parents to research all their options. Making it a requirement to consider mediation before going to court is the way forward.
“Research shows that mediation is quicker, less costly and more effective than court action in helping divorcing and separating couples.
“Mediation helps parents make a decision to work together in the best interests of their children. We need to act now to help parents and families find their own solutions."
Research shows that family mediation is effective in helping separating couples and families with around 70% of mediation cases resulting in an agreement.
Father of two Neil Pryde, from Arbroath, was struggling to reach an agreement with his ex-wife during their divorce and turned to mediation.
He says it helped them resolve things quicker.
“We were struggling to work things out,” he said. “Court is brutal. I was prepared to do what I could to avoid that. It was an intense and upsetting time. The care of your kids is an emotional topic.
“No matter how things seem, mediation can help you resolve things quickly for the sake of your kids. After a few sessions we reached an agreement of 50/50 childcare and stuck to that. The kids are much happier since we sorted things out!”
In England and Wales the Children and Families Act requires separating couples involved in parenting or financial disputes to meet with a mediator prior to going to court. In Scotland it is only a requirement in legal aid cases.
The Justice Committee in Scotland acknowledged in a report earlier this month that the legislation in Scotland was "showing its age" and that more cases in Scotland would benefit from mediation.