The unqualified gap in Scotland’s family law system

The unqualified gap through which children fall in Scotland’s present family law system is about the whole range of separated family patterns that go to family law. The report has a blog-site of its own – The Unqualified Gap. That’s so there are no distractions to anyone reading it. It’s important. There’s a government review coming up. There’s also a higher profile article “The Shame of Scotland’s Family Courts” in the online magazine Scottish Review.

An alternative weird title

Sometimes I’ve called the report: Of Dropped Jaws and Unbatted Eyelids. So you say: “Eh?!”  Well, for those outside Scotland, jaws drop in disbelief when you hear what this report describes. Those of us inside Scotland are so used to it that no one bats an eyelid any more.

Here’s a summary in words. Then read the rest here.

The most complex cases of separated families head for family court. When parents cannot otherwise talk or agree, the courts are where decisions are made. These are cases where disputes over contact or residence are often covertly transformed – under the guise of informal hearings – into concerns of harm, of disturbance, of poor care, of risk, of physical or emotional abuse, of coercive control or undue influence relating to children.

Over several decades in Scotland, this system has become overwhelmingly dominated by lawyers. Not one of the legal professionals in their various roles – not one – is required to have any qualification or training in assessing or working with children and families.

Family lawyers and courts need to be part of the system.. Those involved may be well-intentioned. People’s successful work is never noticed as much as failure is. But lack of competence jumps off the page when we look at the whole system more closely and compare it with international best practice in family law and standard practice in other regulated professions.

Several gaps can be remedied by bringing skilled professionals back into family law. Over decades, they have collectively drifted, or been discouraged, from bringing the skill in their profession to bear on cases where the lack of such skill should be seen as a fault. To Scotland’s greater shame, a forthcoming review will seek to legitimise incompetent professional practice that’s somehow been tolerated within our current system for decades.

You can help

Read the report. For those with an interest, there are short reports on specific Extra issues.  Comment. Share. Then, whether you’re in Scotland or outside it, watch for a chance to put your dropped jaws and your batted eyelids into words for that Scottish government review. Scotland’s children need you to stop them falling through the gaps.  Many thanks.

Nick Child, Edinburgh

About Nick Child

Retired child and family shrink and family therapist living, working and playing in Edinburgh.


  1. Regarding your comment about the ‘Unqualified Gap’ that you wrote and it is aspirational that ‘The quickest, most effective and only ethical answer to several key gaps lies in getting qualified child and family professionals back up to speed and back into harness. In fact – if they are nurtured, not trampled, into the mud by the final boots of ignorance – a few green shoots are already appearing in the shadow of Scotland’s family courts’. My argument is focused upon the lack of gender free and unbiased ‘qualified and family professionals’. Having read the many comments in the Survey on and listened to many contributors as my wife and I conducted an around the UK, including Scotland, tour talking with men and women. We should dearly wish to see True Professionals involved and not those who had gender focussed baggage attached.


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