Parental Rights and Responsibilities

Parental rights and responsibilities are the rights and responsibilities which a parent has in connection with their child. Day to day a parent will exercise these without a second thought. Some rights, nonetheless, can be more complex and cause family debate.

It should be remembered, parental rights arise from a parents’ responsibilities to the child.

Parental rights and responsibilities are as follows:

The responsibility to safeguard and promote the child’s health, development and welfare;
The responsibility to provide direction and guidance, in a manner appropriate to the stage of development of the child. This relates to the way that the child is brought up;
For the absent parent, the responsibility to maintain personal relations and direct contact with the child on a regular basis;
The right to have the child living with them or to regulate the child’s residence;
The right to control and guide the child in a manner that is a appropriate to the child’s upbringing;
If the child is not living with them, a parent has the right to maintain personal relations with the child on a regular basis
The responsibility and the right to act as the child’s legal representative;
All rights and responsibilities apply until a child reaches the age of sixteen, with the exception of guidance which applies until a child reaches the age of eighteen.

Who has Parental Rights and Responsibilities?

A mother automatically has parental rights and responsibilities.

A father will automatically have parental rights and responsibilities if:
1. He was married to the mother of the child at the time of conception, or

2. He is named on the child’s Birth Certificate and the child was born after May 2006.

A legally appointed guardian will have parental rights and responsibilities on the death of the parent.

Same sex partners will both have parental rights and responsibilities if they were married or civil partners at the time of the treatment (donor insemination or fertility treatment).

If the same sex partners are not civil partners at the time of treatment the second parent (the parent not undergoing the treatment) can obtain parental rights and responsibilities by entering into a legal agreement with the first parent, by getting married or entering into a civil partnership or by jointly registering the birth.

Generally, anyone who can “claim an interest” in a child’s wellbeing can ask for parental rights and responsibilities in relation to that child. In some circumstances a Court will grant these rights and responsibilities to grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles or step-parents. You also do not need to be biologically related to the child to apply for these rights. However, the welfare of the child is the principal consideration when granting these and the Court will not make an Order unless to do so will be better than making no order at all. The Court can also remove Parental Rights and Responsibilities when it is deemed to be in the child’s best interests. Depending on the age and maturity of a child, a Court will take account of the child’s views when making a decision regarding their welfare.

How do I get parental rights and responsibilities if I don’t have them automatically?

Firstly, you can enter into an agreement with the mother of the child, if she agrees and signs this then you will obtain parental rights and responsibilities, however, in order to ensure the agreement is legally binging we advise you to instruct a Solicitor to carry this out.

Secondly, you can apply to the court and ask the Sheriff to grant you parental rights and responsibilities.

If you are not on the child’s birth certificate but are the biological father, in certain circumstances you can have the birth certificate amended. This will be dependent on time.

We strongly recommend that you take legal advice before starting any process relating to your parental rights and responsibilities.

If you are considering applying for parental rights and responsibilities, or if you are in a position whereby someone is attempting to remove them from you, you should contact our Family Law department. An appointment can be made with our Ann Oliver at our Kirkcaldy office, Jemma Forbes at our Glenrothes office or Mark Alder at our Leven office.