The Scottish Government is providing funding for two projects, to be led by researchers from Glasgow and Stirling universities.
Guided by an expert group of young people, researchers will identify the challenges and explore the implications for children’s rights where the child’s voice is not heard in family actions.
Researchers will also consider how the approaches of other countries could be translated into a Scottish context.
A second project led by the University of Glasgow and the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) will focus on legal professionals’ understanding of domestic abuse and its implications in child contact cases, exploring the interaction between the criminal and civil justice systems.
Legal Affairs Minister Annabelle Ewing said: “We want to improve people’s experience of the family justice system and these research projects will help us to understand the changes needed to ensure it is fit for the 21st century.
“It is important that we address the barriers to children’s involvement in family law cases and build a greater understanding of the impact of domestic abuse proceedings on the handling of child contact cases.
“Findings from this research will also inform next steps following our consultation on a review of family law in Scotland.”
Professor Jane Mair, University of Glasgow, said: “From physical violence to partner abuse and coercive control; Scots criminal law has made massive strides in how it understands domestic abuse. But what happens when abuse is raised in child contact disputes, and does that understanding of abuse transfer from criminal law to family law?
“In Scottish legal policy, reform and practice, we talk a lot about justice and in particular end-to-end justice; thinking about pathways through the justice system for those who have experienced abuse. But what about side-to-side justice? In this project we will explore the extent to which learning gained in the context of criminal justice is being transferred sideways to family justice.”
Dr Fiona Morrison, University of Stirling said: “The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 has played a vital role in advancing children’s rights in Scotland but despite this, it is recognised that practice around children’s rights to participate in family actions could be improved.
“Our study comes at an exciting time. The Act is under review, and our work will provide evidence on how law and practice might change so that children are better able to take part in the legal decisions that affect their lives.”
‘Domestic Abuse and Child Contact: The interface between criminal and civil justice’ is a collaborative project between Professor Jane Mair, University of Glasgow; Dr Richard Whitecross, Edinburgh Napier University, and Professor Michele Burman, Glasgow University/Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research ( SCCJR) .
'Children’s Participation in Family Actions: Probing compliance with children’s human rights’ is a collaborative project between Dr Fiona Morrison, University of Stirling; Professor Kay Tisdall, Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, University of Edinburgh; and Clan Childlaw.
In May 2018 the Scottish Government published a consultation on potential changes to the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. Interim findings from both research projects will be included in consideration of next steps following the consultation and will inform development of the Scottish Government’s family justice modernisation strategy.