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Here are some common legal issues regarding the law relating to fathers in Scotland.

DNA Testing and Birth Certificate

If there is any doubt as to whether a particular man is the father of the child then a DNA paternity test can be carried out which will prove the position one way or the other. A regulated testing service should be used. The test involves a simple mouth swab and is carried out at a GP’s surgery. The DNA of the child, the assumed father and, where possible, the child’s mother is required. Once all swabs have been sent to the testing service the results are usually returned within a few days. Once paternity is established, if the mother still does not agree to having the father’s name placed on the child’s birth certificate (via a re-registration process) then the Court can grant a ‘declarator of paternity’. This is an order which allows the Registrar to make an entry in the Register of Corrections which will be available alongside the birth certificate and any person viewing the birth entry of the child will see both documents. 

Parental Responsibilities and Rights

All mothers automatically obtain these responsibilities and rights upon the birth of their child. Married fathers obtain them upon registration of the child’s birth as do unmarried fathers but only if they register the child’s birth together with the mother.  If the unmarried fathers name does not appear on the child’s birth certificate then they have no parental responsibilities or rights.  However, they can later obtain them by either marrying the child’s mother, completing and signing a Parental Responsibilities and Rights Agreement in conjunction with the child’s mother or asking the Court to grant them to him. 

These two sets of legal rules work together. Parents are given parental rights to allow them to carry out their parental responsibilities in relation to their children.  Parents are expected to use these rights to take decisions which are in the best interests of their children. 

Responsibilities include:-

  • To look after their children
  • To help them to be healthy and encourage their growth, development and welfare
  • To ensure they go to school or are given other suitable education and have the opportunity to develop their full potential in life
  • To say what they can and cannot do until they are 16 years old and advising and guiding them until they are 18 years old (however such responsibilities can continue until they are 25 years old if they remain in full time education or training)
  • To stay in touch with and be involved in their lives
  • To act for them in legal proceedings

Rights include:-

  • To have their children live with them or to decide where they will live
  • To say what they can and cannot do until they are 16 years old and advising and guiding them until they are 18 years old (however such responsibilities can continue until they are 25 years old if they remain in full time education or training)
  • To act for them in legal proceedings

In any dispute regarding parental responsibilities and rights ultimately the Court can make orders granting to a father of all or some of them or removing some or all of them.

Child maintenance

All fathers are financially responsible for their children even if they:

  • Do not live with the child
  • Are not named on the child’s birth certificate
  • Do not have formal parental responsibility (see above).

The Child Maintenance Service (no longer the Child Support Agency) now deals with situations where parents are unable to agree between themselves arrangements for financially supporting their children.  Detailed information regarding child maintenance can be found online at The site also includes a calculator to assist fathers in working out how much child maintenance they should be paying.  If a man is notified by the Child Maintenance Service that an application for maintenance has been made by a child’s mother, and if that man is not named on the child’s birth certificate and if that man is uncertain as to whether he is indeed the father of that child, then he must notify the Service immediately that he disputes paternity.  He should then have a DNA test carried out in order to establish whether or not he is the child’s father.  Essentially it is up to him to prove he is not the child’s father otherwise maintenance will be due by him.  If it is proven that he is not the child’s father then he will be refunded for any payments he has made from the date he notified the Service that he disputes paternity to the date he notifies them of the results of the DNA test. 

Contact and Residence

In situations where a child’s parents do not reside together and the parents are not able to agree between themselves what the arrangements for care of the children should be, it is possible for the Court to intervene.  The court has the ability to grant a ‘contact order’ which regulates how much contact the child should have with the parent with whom the child does not normally reside.  Similarly, if the parents are in dispute as to who should be the child’s primary carer insofar as who the child lives with most of the time, the court can grant a ‘residence order’ to regulate this.  It is usually always better if parents can agree these matters themselves but sometimes this is not possible.  In such situations, as when taking decisions about any parental responsibilities and rights, the Court will always consider the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration.

Contact our Family Lawyers Inverness, Scotland

If you need advice on any aspect of family law, contact our team on 01463 232 273 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..