Families Need Fathers Scotland has received Scottish Government funding for a training course for "lay assistants" to help party litigants in family law actions in Scotland.

The move comes in response to the steady increase in the number of party litigants in family actions. FNF aims to provide support and a steadying influence before and during court hearings, enabling party litigants to stay focused on the issues before the court.

Following a pilot in Glasgow last month, an initial free course for volunteers will run in Edinburgh in November, with further courses in Aberdeen and Stirling in early 2017.

FNF Scotland national manager Ian Maxwell commented: “We are clear that they’re not surrogate solicitors and aren’t there to give legal advice. But they are there to assist the party litigant – and the court – by taking notes of what is said during proceedings and keeping track of any documents that may be referred to during a child welfare hearing or, more crucially, during a proof.

"There has been more use of lay assistants in other areas of civil litigation such as debt or housing, but we have noticed the increased number of people who are opting to represent themselves in contact and residence cases. They do for a variety of reasons, but the main one is that they find their earnings are just above the SLAB threshold but aren't enough to cope with legal fees that can quickly turn into thousands.”

The course will include presentations by FNF Scotland staff and family law solicitors, video simulations and role play. The funding is provided by the Scottish Government's Volunteering Support Fund. 

Mr Maxwell added: “Our overall aim is a review of family law to reduce the adversarial nature of resolving arrangements for parenting of children after separation. We always advise negotiation or mediation rather than litigation. In the meantime we can’t ignore the rising number of party litigants and this training is aimed at helping them present their case as efficiently and effectively as possible in the interests not only of the court but in the interests of the children involved."

For further information, email a.williamson@fnfscotland.org or call 0131 557 2440.