Parental Rights of Fathers in Scotland

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In Scotland parents have both responsibilities and rights relating to their children. The relevant legislation is the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006, which made some amendments to the earlier Act.

Under Scottish law, there is no distinction between the rights of mothers and fathers, unless is it considered to be against the best interests of the child. Fathers have the right to be involved in their child's life, to maintain a relationship with the child and to make decisions concerning their upbringing, whether they are still in a relationship with the child's mother or not.

Married fathers

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If the father of the child is married to the mother at the time of birth, they automatically share equal parental responsibility. This means that the father has rights equal to the mother in respect of all decisions taken regarding the welfare and upbringing of the child. This may include decisions about the child's education, religious instruction, health and place of residence. When both parents have parental responsibility, one parent cannot make important decisions affecting the child without the consent of the other parent. This is not affected by any subsequent separation or divorce.

Unmarried fathers before 4 May 2006

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Having a child with someone you live with, but are not married to, does not give you the same legal parental rights as a married father. If your child's birth was registered before 4 May 2006, only the mother has automatic parental responsibility. The child's father can only obtain parental responsibility by entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother; securing a court order awarding him parental responsibility; or marrying the mother. If the mother with parental responsibility dies, the surviving father doesn't gain automatic parental responsibility unless he has a court order or a parental responsibility agreement in his favour.

Unmarried fathers after 4 May 2006

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The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 made a major change to the law regarding the parental rights of unmarried fathers. Fathers who are registered on the child's birth certificate after or on after 4 May 2006 automatically share parental responsibility with the mother. It is important to note that it is the date of registration, not the date of the child's birth, that is important.