Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) Lawyers

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) in Scotland
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Trauma Informed Family Law in Scotland

The Family Law team at Harper MacLeod are leading voices in the field of adverse childhood experiences and in particular the impact of trauma upon both children and adults involved in family disputes. Our Senior Associate, Nadine Martin, has been involved in raising awareness in the legal community on how solicitors can represent their clients in a way which is trauma informed.

What are adverse childhood experiences (ACES)?

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are stressful events that occur in childhood which can include domestic violence, parental abandonment through separation or divorce, living with a parent with mental health condition and poverty.  The phrase adverse childhood experience has been coined as a way to help people understand childhood adversity and trauma. 

The adverse childhood experiences study took place between 1995 and 1997 and studied children who had experienced a number of the events which constitute adverse childhood experiences.

The research showed that children who have faced trauma or toxic stress during their childhood are more likely to suffer a significant health condition, social problems across their lifespan.

How can family lawyers help minimise ACEs & childhood trauma?

At Harper Macleod, we are well versed in the most up to date knowledge regarding how stress and trauma affects children.  This lets us help parents to make the right decisions for their children particularly around their living arrangements, how their parents negotiate their divorce and whether or not litigation is necessary. Sometimes it is unavoidable to ask the court to make decisions about a child's life but we are expert and specialised in all forms of alternative dispute resolution including mediation and collaboration which can help parents to look at the issues arising from their separation in a much more bespoke way that minimises the traumatic impact of separation upon children.

For more information on our family law services call our offices for free or complete our simple online form below, for an initial discussion or to request a callback. 

What can we do about ACEs & childhood trauma?

It is important to understand that the negative impact of toxic stress and trauma during childhood can be buffered by the presence of supportive adults, supportive parents and someone who will listen to and care about what children have to say.  The most important aspect of tackling childhood adversity is acknowledging it at the time and listening to how children feel. 

The ACE aware movement in Scotland

Scotland has become one of the leading countries in the world to think holistically about how educators, third sector charities and service providers, the justice system and the care system deal with childhood adversity.  There have now been two conferences in Scotland regarding the making of Scotland as an ACE aware nation the first attended by Nicola Sturgeon and Dr Nadine Burke Harris who is the state health care professional for California and a proponent of raising awareness around ACEs and childhood trauma most recently there was a visit by Dr Gabor Mate a specialist in trauma and addiction attended by 1,800 at the Concert Hall in Glasgow. 

Why are adverse childhood experiences important in family law?

Divorce in and of itself can be a traumatic event for a child. The more acrimonious the divorce the higher the chance of toxic stress and trauma. While children are and can be very resilient to changes in their life, acrimony between parents is likely to produce toxic stress which may not be visible at the outset but can manifest itself in adulthood both across health problems and social problems. In addition, children being asked to participate in court processes about who they see, who they live with and where they live, unless it is dealt with sensitively and carefully, can be exceptionally stressful. With the right help, parents can avoid these negative outcomes.

Court processes allow children to speak to sheriffs and on very rare occasions to be called to court to give evidence.  Attending court to give evidence has been shown to be a leading cause of trauma and stress for children.

A message of hope

It is very important to be clear that the number of traumatic experiences that a child has in their lifetime is not the only determiner of what will happen to them in the future. We do know however that trauma leads to statistically likely negative health and wellbeing consequences. It is also important to understand that with good legal guidance, with help from professionals and with love and perseverance there is hope for children going through traumatic experiences. The presence of safe, loving, secure adults in their life is one of the most important factors to combat the negative impact of trauma.

For more information contact Nadine Martin

Useful ACE Resources and Links 

NHS Scotland Adverse Childhood Experiences video

Nadine Martin's Law Society of Scotland Journal article - Being Trauma informed in practice

Suzanne Zeedyke's & Iain Keegan-Smith Law Society of Scotland Journal article - When four ACEs is a bad hand

Adverse Childhood Experiences in Scotland (ACES) Solicitors

Law Society of Scotland Accredited Family Law Specialist

Nadine has an established practice which encompasses all areas of family law including separation, divorce, financial provision, cohabitationresidence and contact disputes and relocation of children. She is well respected by her peers and is often referred complex cases by other solicitors. Nadine is an experienced mediator and works with families to resolve difficult situations around arrangements for their children. Find out more.

Law Society of Scotland Accredited Family Law Specialist 

Nadine Martin

Nadine Martin

Family Law Senior Associate

Call our Accredited Family Law Specialists

Glasgow Office: 0141 227 9545

Edinburgh Office: 0131 247 2556

Inverness & Highlands Office: 01463 795 035

Shetland Office: 01595 480759

Elgin Office: 01463 795 035

Family Law Legal Chambers Top Ranked Firm 2019      Top Ranked & Leading Law Firm in Family Law Chambers 2019

Scotland Family Law Legal 500 Leading Firm 2019     Member of The Law Society of Scotland

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