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Divorce lessons for families

Date:10 JUN 2008

A US divorce coach and parent educator has been visiting Scotland to urge politicians to introduce mandatory training lessons for parents and children affected by divorce and separation.

In the US, 28 states compel parents to partake in such lessons before they can proceed with a formal divorce.

At a reception organised by Counselling and Family Mediation Grampian, politicians were being urged by family mediators and leading family law experts to pilot a new parent education classes and family mediation.

Christina McGhee is a leading divorce coach and parent educator in the US, and in 2006 presented a Channel 4 series entitled 'How to Divorce Without Screwing up your Kids'.

Elizabeth Wallace, Chief Executive of Counselling and Family Mediation Grampian, said "I first saw Christina talk about the parent education programmes she runs in the States when she visited London in 2006. We invited her to Scotland in 2007 and were delighted that she could return this year to help raise awareness of this unique service for separating and divorcing parents in Scotland."

Relationships Scotland, previously Family Mediation Scotland, and the Scottish Collaborative Family Law Group, comprising Scotland's leading family law exponents, are supported in their aims by Christina, who has helped raise the profile of the collaborative approach in the US.

According to Relationships Scotland, the fallout from parental acrimony can lead to behavioural problems in children, lower levels of attainment and higher levels of smoking, drinking and drug use.

Now Relationships Scotland is offering parent education classes, and they would like to see Scotland's law-makers make attendance the norm for parents who are separating.

Christina McGhee said: "We believe that parent education works best when it is enshrined in law, and that ultimately the best option is that parents who are separating should be made to attend these classes to ensure that they are aware of how best to handle the welfare of their children during this traumatic time."

Family Law specialists are also anxious to pilot the new approach. Lesley Gordon, who heads the Family Law team at Scottish law firm Lindsays, said: "Increasingly family law specialists are seeking to encourage clients to adopt a collaborative approach to marital and relationship break-ups. This approach can greatly reduce any conflict encountered, and certainly helps to reduce the risk of children being unnecessarily hurt through being caught up in the break-up.

"With increasing divorce rates - almost half of marriages now end in divorce - we need to move to a less adversarial system and encourage the legal profession to seek to embed a more solution focussed, child friendly approach."