Who are parents and relevant person?
A parent is defined as any person who is the genetic or adoptive mother or father of the child. A parent has in relation to his child the responsibility to safeguard and promote the child’s health, development and welfare: provide, in a manner appropriate to the stage of development of the child, direction and guidance and to act as the child’s legal representative. If the child is not living with the parent the parent has a responsibility to maintain personal relations and direct contact with the child on a regular basis. (Section (1), Children (Scotland) Act 1995).
A mother has full parental rights and responsibilities. A father has parental responsibilities and rights if he is or was married to the mother (at the time of the child’s conception or subsequently) or if the birth of the child is registered after 4 May 2006 and he is registered as the father of the child on the child’s birth certificate. A father may also acquire parental responsibilities or rights under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 by entering into a formal agreement with the mother, or by making an application to the courts.
The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 and
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 confers rights and responsibilities on same sex partners.
Relevant person is a term used specifically in relation to children’s hearings. It is a term defined by the 2011 Act (s.200) and associated rules and it is now a broader definition than previous legal definitions. It covers most parents and those people to whom the courts have given significant parental rights and responsibilities. It can now include those with a significant involvement in a child’s upbringing.
Relevant person status can be automatic or is a status that a person can acquire, either through the courts or, through being deemed a relevant person by a pre-hearing panel or a children’s hearing. The 2011 Act and associated rules set out who a relevant person is and what the new process is to become a relevant person.
The status can change where circumstances change or other court processes alter people’s rights and responsibilities e.g. a court deciding on permanence. The hearing can remove the status that it has given.
Others, e.g. with contact orders who are not relevant persons, have now been given limited access to hearings where their rights may be affected.
Who are relevant persons?
Relevant person status is automatic for most parents and people with certain court orders.
The following are relevant persons automatically:
- A parent or guardian (mother or father) (unless, if they had parental rights and responsibilities (PRR), the court has removed them)
- A person with a court order giving them PRR.
- A person with a court residence order.
- A person with PRR through a court permanence order.
Relevant person status can be acquired through a court or other legal process:
- By a parent marrying the mother.
- By a person applying to court for a PRR order.
- By a person asking a hearing to deem them to have relevant person status which the hearing does.
- By the child or other relevant person asking the hearing to deem a person a relevant person.
The Reporter may need some form of legal proof regarding parentage before the a person can be considered to be a relevant person, for example it should always be checked if a father been named on the birth certificate or that the parents are in fact married.
To be deemed a relevant person by a Children’s Hearing an individual must have (or have recently had) a significant involvement in the upbringing of the child.
Relevant persons have extensive rights and duties within the Children’s Hearing system, including the right to attend Children’s Hearings, receive all relevant documentation, and challenge decisions taken within those proceedings.
A ‘kinship carer’ can be a person who is related to the child or a person who is known to the child and with whom the child has a pre-existing relationship (related means related to the child either by blood, marriage or civil partnership. Regulation 10 of the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 provides that a local authority may make a decision to approve a kinship carer as a suitable carer for a child who is looked after by that authority under the terms of section 17(6) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.
Informal kinship care refers to care arrangements made by parents or those with parental responsibilities with close relatives or, in the case of orphaned or abandoned children, by those relatives providing care. A child cared for by informal kinship carers is not
‘looked after’. The carer in such circumstances is not a foster carer, nor is assessment of such a carer by the local authority a legal requirement.