So just what are parental rights and responsibilities? Parents have the responsibility to look after their children:
- to help them to be healthy
- encourage their growth, development and welfare
- to ensure attendance at school and an opportunity to develop to their full potential
Parents have the responsibility and the right to say how their children should be brought up. This includes:
- being in charge and saying what they can and cannot do until they are 16;
- providing advice and guidance until 18; and
- if a child is in full time education or training, a financial responsibility until the age of 25.
Even if a parent is not living with their child, both parents have the responsibilities and the right to stay in touch with, and be involved with, the lives of their children and have a good relationship with them.
Who has these parental rights and responsibilities?
From 04 May 2006 onwards the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 had a major impact on Family Law and introduced a number of changes directly affecting Child Law. One of the main changes is that the unmarried father of a child born after 4 May 2006 who jointly registers a birth and who is named on the birth certificate now has automatic parental rights and responsibilities.
A mother has always had automatic parental rights and responsibilities and so too has a married father but prior to this change in the law, an unmarried father had no automatic rights or responsibilities. He could only acquire these if the mother signed a voluntary Parental Responsibilities and Parental Rights Agreement or a court order was granted.
Who can apply to the courts for parental rights and responsibilities?
Unmarried fathers of children born before 4 May 2006, step-parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings over the age of 16 years can acquire these rights by making an application to the court.
When deciding whether to give someone parental rights and responsibilities the court will make a decision on what they consider is best for the child, not what is best for the adult who has asked for the court order!
If you would like further information on this topic or any other family law matter, please feel free to contact a member of our Family Department.