Tuesday, March 5, 2002
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
Collaborative family law practices have popped up all over Canada,
including the four western provinces, Ontario, Nova Scotia and the Northwest
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
"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
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
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.