Who can make decisions about children?

Last updated: 25/01/2023

You may be expected to involve your child’s other parent when making important decisions about your child.

Listening to your children’s views

Relationships Scotland have a resource for parents –
‘Listening to your children’s views’

The information here is very general. You should get advice from a solicitor if you have legal questions about your rights and responsibilities for a child.

The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 outlines who has the right to be included in decision making about children and what must be done for them. These are called Parental Responsibilities and Rights.

What are Parental Responsibilities and Rights? (PRR)

A person who has Parental Responsibility and Rights for a child has the right to make decisions about their care and upbringing.
These include the responsibility for and making decisions about:

  • the safety, wellbeing and health of your child
  • providing a home for your child
  • your child’s education
  • providing discipline
  • your child’s belongings

Having this responsibility for your child gives you the right to see medical records and school reports, decide where and when they can go on holiday, what religion they can follow, what they should eat and when they can go to bed.


Who has Parental Responsibilities and Rights?

The people who have Parental Responsibilities and Rights are:

  • The woman who gave birth to the child
  • The father if:
    • he was married to the mother when the baby was conceived or married the mother anytime after
    • he registered the birth of the baby with the mother (i.e. his name is on the birth certificate) after 04 May 2006
    • he signed and registered a Parental Responsibilities and Rights Agreement
    • he was given Parental Responsibilities and Rights by the court
  • A person in a same sex couple who:
    • is/was married to or in a civil partnership with the mother or has signed the forms giving them Parental Responsibilities and Rights, at the time she had egg donation,
      embryo transfer, or donor insemination treatment
    • A person named on the child’s Parental Order after surrogacy
    • The person named in an adoption order
    • An appointed guardian

Where more than one person has parental responsibilities and rights both must agree on decisions about the children.

Do family without Parental Responsibilities and Rights have any legal rights over children?

  • Grandparents do not have any legal rights over their grandchildren but may be given them by a court.
  • Step parents do not have any legal rights over step children but may be given them by a court.
  • Fathers who do not have Parental Responsibilities and Rights can get them by signing a Parental Responsibilities and Rights Agreement. The mother must agree to this and both parents must sign this document. If the mother refuses to sign the document, fathers can go to court and ask for an order giving them Parental Responsibilities and Rights. They can do this even if the child doesn’t live with them. The court will decide what rights, if any, the father will be awarded.



Who is a child?

Who is considered to be a child depends on the situation.

Under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 a child is under 18 years. For child protection issues a child is under 16 but in some circumstances can be up to 18.

Children can become independent at 16 when they start full time work or claim certain welfare benefits but may also remain a dependent of their parents up to the age of 20 if in non-advanced education.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child children of all ages have a right to be asked what they think, express an opinion and have that opinion listened to. Adults acting on behalf of children do not have to act on the wishes of children but could do so depending on the ability of the child to decide for themselves.


For further information and questions about legal issues regarding children in Scotland visit: The Scottish Child Law Centre