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Call for sheriffs to enforce child contact orders

SHERIFFS have been urged to do more to enforce child contact orders when one parent refuses to cooperate.

The call came from Scottish campaigners for fathers who said many mothers ignore orders to allow their children to see a separated father, yet suffer no consequences.

It comes as Lady Elizabeth Butler-Sloss called for more action against parents who ignore orders for child contact

Lady Butler-Sloss, the former President of the Family Division of the High Court of Justice in England and Wales, said a resident mother was obliged to follow a court order and if she did not, she should be punished, but not imprisoned.

"I can see no reason why she shouldn't do community service," she said. "I should like to see her penalised in all sorts of inconvenient ways as long as it doesn't have any impact on her care of the child.

"So long as the child is over five or goes to a child minder, then there is no reason why she shouldn't be required to go and clean the streets, whatever it may be. I would make her do something really unpleasant so she understands the consequences of this," the peer said.

The interview, published in the journal of the charity Families Need Fathers, was about the impact of the new Children and Families Act, passed at West­minster earlier this year.

However, parents, particularly fathers, in Scotland are often confronted by similar problems, according to Ian Maxwell, national manager of Families Need Fathers Scotland.

He said: "Although this new legislation covers only England and Wales, Lady Butler-Sloss's comments on the enforcement of court orders are very relevant to Scottish family courts.

"Our experience is that sheriffs are very reluctant to take any firm steps when court orders for contact with children are breached. Far too many of our members find they still do not see their children when a contact order is in place."

Mr Maxwell said such orders were made primarily for the benefit of children.

"A court makes an order for contact only where this is in the child's best interests, so breaches of orders sadly hurt children and parents alike," he said.

"We support the call of Lady Butler-Sloss for greater use of enforcement measures and hope this important subject will receive greater attention from sheriffs."

There have been a series of calls for greater protection for fathers in recent weeks.

The Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee this week published a report saying there was an imbalance in parental leave and flexible working opportunities on offer to fathers, founded on the view that "parenting is solely a mother's job" and called for NHS parenting classes to be more accessible to fathers.

Meanwhile, the Parliament's Public Petitions Committee is considering a petition from Borders-based father Ron Park, who says fathers' rights are poorly protected by an outdated legal system.

Contextual targeting label: 
Families

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