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International News Archive
March  01 - March 06, 2002


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This page contains news for the period March 01 through March 06, 2002.



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Tuesday, March 5, 2002

British Army allows unmarried soldiers to bring in partners on base

A story released today by Sky News reports that unmarried British soldiers are now being allowed to spend nights in barracks with their girlfriends in a break with Army tradition.

A number of commanding officers around the country have already introduced the policy at weekends and others are set to follow.

The move will affect around half of the Army's 100,000 soldiers.

The Army is also setting up a number of "welfare houses" - bed and breakfast accommodation which soldiers will be able to book for a weekend with their girlfriends.

"We have been looking quite hard at the regime and how soldiers are treated within peacetime barracks." said an Army spokesman.

"Many of the Army's rules and regulations have been around since the days of conscription and are no longer so applicable in 21st century Britain."

The spokesman added: "This is an example of how we are relaxing certain rules. Soldiers are individuals and what they do in their private lives is their own affair."


Monday, March 4, 2002

Collaborative divorce proceedings sweeping Canada


A story released today by Southam News reports that the divorce courts in one Canadian city have already gone out of business as lawyers and their clients flock to the hottest trend in family law - "collaborative" divorce.

It is easier on the kids, your wallet and your relationship with your ex, proponents say, and governments like it, too.

"Virtually no family law is done in the courts in Medicine Hat any more because clients typically choose the collaborative family law process," said Janis Pritchard, a senior lawyer in the southeastern Alberta city of 52,000.

Eighteen months ago, 20 of 21 divorce lawyers in Medicine Hat joined the vanguard of the "kinder, gentler" divorce movement sweeping Canada from west to east.

Collaborative family law practices have popped up all over Canada, including the four western provinces, Ontario, Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories.

On the weekend in Saskatoon, Ms. Pritchard trained another 26 lawyers in mediation, negotiation and cutting-edge settlement skills designed to transform them from marital gladiators into peacemakers.

Unlike the traditional adversarial, court-connected approach to divorce, collaborative divorce eliminates litigation as an option. The goal is for the separated spouses to settle their differences in a way that works best for them, not necessarily according to their strict legal "rights," although each spouse has a lawyer to advise them of their entitlements.

The spouses sign a binding contract that they and their respective lawyers will participate in four-way negotiations in good faith; fully disclose to each other their financial and other key information; and renounce their right to threaten, or engage, in litigation. Should either spouse later decide to go to court, the lawyers must quit and cannot represent either side. Collaborative family law differs from mediation, another settlement mechanism, because the spouses are assisted by their lawyers to devise their own deal, without the help of a neutral arbiter.

"Any judge, any experienced family law lawyer will tell you that the collateral damage to families in the traditional positional bargaining and in the court system is huge, and none of us likes that," said Ms. Pritchard. "It exhausts families psychologically, emotionally and financially."

In the collaborative divorce process, lawyers coach their clients in four-way meetings, but the spouses are firmly in the driver's seat. Lawyers advise their clients openly, in front of the other spouse. Information is not to be used as a strategic weapon.

Effective communication is promoted not just to produce a settlement the ex-spouses can live with and respect, but to avoid the polarization associated with adversarial bargaining, and to enable the ex-spouses to co-operate after a deal is signed.

Collaborative lawyers say the process tends to be quicker, cheaper and more effective than the traditional method.


Sunday, March 3, 2002

Swedish lawmakers tackle same-sex adoption bill

A story published today by the Los Angeles Times reports that Swedish lawmakers are now debating on a bill that would give domestic partner couples the right to adopt children in Sweden and abroad. It is expected easily to win approval in June when parliament votes on the measure.

Supporters hail the legislation for aiming to rectify discrimination against same-sex couples but also for the clarity it should bring to murky legalities surrounding children already growing up with gay parents.

''Such households exist in our society and in increasing numbers, so we have to recognize that,'' says Marianne Carlstrom, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Goran Persson's Social Democratic Party, which is sponsoring the bill.

"We can't address the needs of these children with same-sex parents unless we have a legal framework that includes the adoption issue."

Under current law, a single parent of either sex can qualify for adoption if he or she passes an extensive state-administered battery of tests probing financial status, emotional stability and social environment. A friend or relative of the opposite sex of the adoptive parent must also commit to providing a gender model for the child.

But partners in registered same-sex relationships or marriages are ineligible for adoption, although the law is powerless to prevent a person from adopting and bringing up the child with his or her partner. In-vitro fertilization is also restricted to heterosexuals -- another inconsistency that parliament is expected to address simultaneously with the adoption law revisions.

The current legal gaps hamstring courts increasingly being called on to decide custody and support issues when gay couples with children separate through divorce or death. Legal rights favor the biological mother, but even those are ill-defined if the child was produced by unauthorized in-vitro fertilization.

Sweden's legislation has already won endorsement by all political parties represented in parliament, with the exception of the Christian Democrats and the right-of-center Moderates, Carlstrom says. That should ensure a solid majority during a vote set for June 5 and its passage into law in 2003, she says. Nonetheless, a passionate debate is expected.

''There is opposition, even in my own party, but it is based more on emotion than facts. There's not much research on same-sex couples as parents, but we have every reason to believe they are as stable and nurturing as heterosexual parents,'' Carlstrom added.



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