Holidays are over
Many parents will give a sigh of relief that the summer holidays are drawing to a close. As your children go back to school you may be thinking about the responsibilities and rights which are part of being a parent.
Parental responsibilities are those things parents are expected to do when bringing up their children. Parental rights are the things parents are allowed or entitled to. These rights and responsibilities must always be considered alongside the welfare and best interests of the child.
Who is a parent?
For the purposes of education “parent” is defined in section 135(1) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980: “Parent includes guardian and any person who is liable to maintain or has parental responsibilities (within the meaning of section 1(3) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995) in relation to, or has care of a child or young person.”
Parents have a responsibility to ensure that their children attend school and have the opportunity to develop to their full potential. If you are a parent in terms of the 1980 Act you have the right to be kept informed of your child’s progress at school and to be invited to parents’ nights.
Who has Parental Responsibilities and Rights?
The mother of a child automatically has parental responsibilities and rights and so too has a married father.
If your child was born on or after 4th May 2006, and you are named as the child’s father on their birth certificate, you are automatically entitled to parental responsibilities and rights, regardless of your relationship with the child’s mother. However, before this change in the law an unmarried father had no automatic rights or responsibilities.
How can a father obtain Parental Responsibilities and Rights if not automatically entitled to them?
There are two ways a father can obtain parental rights and responsibilities:
If the mother is prepared to consent the parents may enter into a Parental Responsibilities and Parental Rights Agreement. This doesn’t involve the court. Once this Agreement is registered, it becomes irrevocable except by a court order. Such Agreements can only be entered into between a mother and a man who is the biological father of her child.
- If the mother of the child is not prepared to enter into an agreement granting parental responsibilities and rights, a father can apply to the Sheriff Court for an order giving him parental rights and responsibilities. When granting such an order the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration. The court will only grant a parental rights and responsibilities order if it is in the child’s best interests to do so.
My child doesn’t live with me…
It is important for both parents to be involved in their child’s education. This is more difficult if one parent only has weekend and holiday contact (the non-resident parent). This is one reason why midweek contact with the non-resident parent is so important: it enables you to help with homework, visit and see the school and meet teachers.
Non-resident parents often encounter difficulties when trying to obtain information about their child’s education. A non-resident parent is entitled to information about their child even if they have no direct contact.
The general rule is that schools should treat both parents equally and that they should be entitled to the same information about their child. If the non-resident parent has parental responsibility the other parent cannot make unilateral decisions about a child’s education and must consult with the non-resident parent. If you cannot agree on which school your child will attend the court will have to intervene and impose a decision on you.
These can be complicated and emotional issues. If you need advice or support on anything related to parental responsibilities and rights, our team of family lawyers in Edinburgh and Glasgow can help. Contact us to discuss your situation.