The Family Law Association held its AGM in the extremely comfortable quarters of the Old Course Hotel at St Andrews on 20th November 2004 followed by a successful conference which ran through to Saturday 22nd November. Your reporter attended only at the plenary session on the Saturday morning when the Association was addressed by Lord Bonomy, Sheriff Galbraith, Mrs Margaret Scanlan and Michael Scanlan and various members of the Association. This was an informative session in which different local jurisdictions gained insight into the ways of other jurisdictions, future trends were reviewed in the shape of the Family Law ( Scotland) Bill and various fora as alternatives to court proceedings, were considered for dealing with family problems. There emerged one issue which appeared to divide the opinion of the meeting and of the speakers. Lord Bonomy appeared to this reporter to favour the development of family courts with special rules and procedures tailored to the special needs of the parties to these proceedings and of their children. Sheriff Galbraith appeared to counsel against departing too far from the formality of legal proceedings. While these respective contributions were by no means inconsistent with each other, they tended to reflect a difference of emphasis and, from other contributions, it appeared that there may be a divergence of opinion as to whether there should be different styles of court for different causes and, more particularly, the development of judges specially trained for and specialising in limited proceedings or whether the court should be an identifiable procedure whatever the cause and judges should continue to be expected to address causes from across the board. Members of the Scottish Law Agents' Society are invited to contribute to this debate and anecdotes from local courts might be of interest and assistance.
Your reporter, unfortunately, missed the contribution on Friday 21st November by Hugh Henry, the Deputy Justice Minister. Apparently, Mr Henry advised that the Scottish Executive was working with bodies like the Family Law Association and that most solicitors were in support of changing the law towards no fault divorce but, for some reason, it did not appear to be appropriate to take a view by a show of hands of those present, when this was suggested. Again, views from members are invited.