New notice forms to children in family actions should avoid the risk of confusion and upset that might be created by asking for their views twice in quick succession, the Faculty of Advocates has suggested.
The Faculty's Family Law Reform Group made the comments in a response to the Scottish Civil Justice Council, which has drafted two forms for giving notice to children that an action has been raised and how it affects them, and giving them the chance to put their views to the court.
First, form F9.1 would intimate the action and seek any comments at that stage. Form F9.2 would then be sent to the child for his or her views if notice has been given that the action is to be defended.
Faculty's response states that the two-stage process could be positive, but that "it may be confusing, and perhaps emotionally difficult, for children to be asked for their views twice in quick succession, as is envisaged in the draft forms".
“It would be natural for a child to think that the judge wants him or her to fill in the form immediately with F9.1 and then to be puzzled or distressed by the receipt of a second form", Faculty adds. "There will be a risk that the child thinks his or her first answer was in some way unacceptable.
“We would suggest that the form F9.1 is sent to the child when the action is raised to inform the child of the court action, but that it does not at that stage ask the child to state his or her views.
“Form F9.2 would be sent out a week later… whether or not a notice of intention to defend had been lodged, in order that the child is given the opportunity to give their view to the court”.
For the content of the forms, Faculty likes the child friendly layout and use of colour, with happy and sad faces to make the form easier for younger children. It still thinks that some of the wording could be made simpler, and supports the intention to consult groups of children on the content of the forms.