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Parenting and the Law

Legal parenthood is centred on parental rights and responsibilities (‘PRRs’). The Act defines these separately, though they are in practice intertwined. The responsibilities of parents are:

  • to safeguard and promote the child’s health, development and welfare;
  • to provide, in a manner appropriate to the stage of development of the child, direction and guidance to the child;
  • if the child is not living with the parent,to maintain personal relations and direct contact with the child on a regular basis; and
  • to act as the child’s legal representative

Each of these responsibilities apply only so far as they are practicable and in the child’s interests. Though a child becomes an Adult at age 16 in Scotland, the responsibility of guidance remains in effect until the new Adult turns 18. This feature of the law recognises the reality that children transition into adulthood, and compels those with PRRs to guide young persons as they take the first steps of Adult life.

Parental Responsibilities

Parental rights are closely mirrored by parental responsibilities. It is crucial to note that the law is not designed to give parents the right of ‘ownership’ of their children. For example, the right to ‘control’ the upbringing of the child is given effect by the responsibility to provide appropriate guidance to the child. The rights recognised are centred on promoting and safeguarding the child’s best interests. This purpose of the law is further revealed in that the exercise of PRRs are subject to any orders of the court. For example, in cases of separation, a contact order can be implemented to regulate the PRRs of the ‘contact parent’ to maintain contact with the child. An order can even be made to strip a parent of any or all of his PRRs, where this is appropriate.

Persons Without PRRs

The Act recognises situations where a person cares for a child, but does not have any or all of the PRRs described. Provided that the carer is at least 16 and caring for someone under 16 (and excluding a person caring for or controlling a child in a school environment), the Act grants authority to the carer to do what is reasonable in the circumstances to safeguard the child’s health, development and welfare. The law recognises the diversity of family arrangements in the 21st century, and that those with authority in the family home would not always be recognised as parents in the classical sense.

Contact Us

If you would like to discuss your circumstances in relation to a child, please feel free to contact McCarthy Law on 0141 337 6678, or via e-mail: