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Child Contact Rights in Scotland

Many people refer to this as child access, however the legal term in Scotland is contact.

When parents separate, it can be all too easy to focus on how the separation is affecting them, without necessarily considering how it may affect their children. But separations are very difficult for many children and it is up to the adults to protect the children from any fallout from the breakdown of their relationship.

It is important for children to be aware that it is acceptable to want to see both parents – no matter who they live with – and this should always be facilitated, as long as it is in their best interests. Agreement on contact can be achieved in different ways and the most appropriate route will very much depend on your individual circumstances. The law is not expected to interfere with arrangements reached easily between parents, but where there are difficulties managing contact arrangements, a document known as a Minute of Agreement can assist. Where parents just can't reach agreement, other methods of dispute resolution can be considered such as mediation. As a last resort court action may be necessary.

Click here to read a full transcript of this Child contact video. Or alternatively you can select captions in the video panel.

Frequently asked questions

The following are some of our most frequently asked questions when it comes to child contact.

This is a very difficult question to answer as there are no hard and fast rules. It is a question of what is right for your family.

It is best to try to reach an agreement that provides consistency and can be relied upon by everyone. Children benefit most from a regular and stable routine. This may involve a shared care arrangement, where each parent takes the child for alternate weeks or for one half of the week with the other parent taking the other half. Or it could be for fewer days, where for example the child stays with one parent during the week and the other parent over the weekend. Contact can be residential, non-residential or a combination of both.

Again, this is a difficult question to answer as there is no set level of entitlement to contact. Parents should try to agree between themselves contact arrangements which are right for their children and the circumstances of the whole family.

With the assistance of a solicitor, your particular circumstances can be looked at and options explored by way of negotiation with the other parent and or their solicitor. Mediation can often help as can other forms of alternative dispute resolution, such as the Collaborative Family Law Process. A minute of agreement could be entered into once agreement has been reached and this document then regulates the pattern of contact. Sometimes no agreement can be reached at all and in those circumstances, court action may have to be contemplated. This leaves the decision to the court which is based on what the court considers to be in the best interests of the child.

Under the law, certain people automatically hold parental rights and responsibilities (PRRs) for children. These people are:

  • The child’s mother
  • The child’s father if he is married to the child’s mother
  • The child’s father if he is registered as such on the birth certificate after 4 May 2006

No other person has automatic PRR’s although they can be obtained by subsequent re- registration, entering into a specific type of agreement commonly known as a section 4 agreement or court order. A section 4 agreement is a specific parental responsibilities and parental rights agreement that is signed by both parents and then is subsequently registered in the books of council and session. it is not effective unless it is registered in this way.

Parental responsibilities include the responsibility to safeguard and promote their child’s health, development and welfare, and to provide guidance and direction. A parent is also responsible for maintaining contact with their child. Parental rights mirror the responsibilities, and their function is to enable parents to fulfil their parental responsibilities.

These rights and responsibilities continue until the child reaches 16 years old, except for the right and responsibility to provide guidance, which continues until the child turns 18.

Essentially, anyone with parental rights and responsibilities should have access to school and medical records, even if the child does not live with them. Regulation 2 of the pupils educational records (Scotland) regulations 2003 provides a parent with a general right of access to children’s school records and under the children (Scotland) act 1995, parents have an obligation to safeguard and promote the child’s health and welfare. Such requests should generally be made in writing to the health board or GP surgery or to the local education authority and may involve paying a fee.  It should be noted that such requests may be denied if it would be likely to cause significant harm or distress to the child involved.

How can Thorntons help?

At Thorntons Family Law, we understand the importance of setting up the right child contact arrangements for your family and have many years’ experience in helping clients achieve best outcomes. We can help parents and children understand their options, the processes involved and help with negotiations and drawing up a Minute of Agreement. We are committed to methods of alternative dispute resolution such as mediation or collaboration, but where circumstances dictate, have a wealth of experience in dealing with court processes.

At Thorntons Family Law, we offer an initial free no-obligation chat over the phone to outline your options and the possible costs.

Depending on your case and circumstances, the next step is to come into one of our local offices to meet a Family Law Solicitor about your case and the way forward.

Call us on 03330 430 150 for a chat or contact us to book an appointment.

How much will it cost?

We are always clear to clients about the potential costs of any option and offer a range of payment options.  In some cases we can offer clients a fixed price package.  If we cannot offer a fixed price service, we charge based on the time we spend on your case, including meetings, emails, phone calls and court representations. Depending on your case and circumstances, you may also need to cover outlays, such as court costs or payments to independent experts. We will set out our fees and likely extra costs for you at the start and keep you informed of any possible changes as your case progresses.

Please note we do not offer Legal Aid for this service.