Young people and family
This information applies to Scotland
If you are under the age of 18 you can be adopted, if you are not married or in a civil partnership. If you are 12 or over you must agree to the adoption and in all cases the court must take account of what is in your best interests.
Adoptions are either arranged by an adoption agency (either the local authority or another registered adoption service) or by close relatives. Adoptions have to be agreed in court, at which point an adoption order is granted. Full parental responsibilities and rights pass to the adoptive parents and the birth parents no longer have rights. In some cases, a step-parent may apply alone to adopt a child of their spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner (including a partner of the same sex).
If you know that you are adopted and you want to find out who your birth parents are, you have a right to see your birth records when you reach the age of 16. You can apply to the Registrar for births, marriages and deaths who will provide the names of one or both of your birth parents but only after counselling has been offered.
For more information about adoption, see Adopting a child [ 130 kb] in Family fact sheets.
National Records of Scotland
HM General Register House
2 Princes Street
Tel: 0131 535 1314
Fax: 0131 314 4400
Changing your name
In Scotland, you can use a different name for yourself at any time. However, if you are under 16 you will need parental consent to be able to officially record a change of name.
For more information, see Changing your name.
If you are aged 16 or over and in a gay or lesbian relationship you can register your relationship to become civil partners. You can do this without parental consent.
As civil partners you will have many of the same rights and responsibilities towards each other as married partners have.
For more information on civil partnerships, see Registering a civil partnership.
Family breakdown problems
If there are problems in the family because of separation of parents or other carers there are agencies that can help you to make sure everyone knows how you feel before any decisions are taken. The Family Decision Making Service is run by three organisations all together - One Parent Families Scotland, Parentline Scotland and the Scottish Child Law Centre. They aim to help to reduce conflict and improve collaboration between separated and separating parents using family group decision making. You can read more about this service on the website of One Parent Families Scotland.
Another agency provides information and advice on its website about how to try to resolve problems in communication in a family. It is called the Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution. As well as providing advice for parents, carers and young people in the family there is a database of local mediation services across the whole of Scotland.
Leaving your child alone
As a parent, guardian or carer you have a legal responsibility to ensure that your child is safe and not at risk if they are left alone without adult supervision.
There is no law for what age a child can be left home alone, but your child must not be at risk. The police and social work can investigate and take action if they consider a child to be at risk. For more guidance on leaving a child on their own visit mygov.scot.
Local authority care
If you are in need you and/or your family may be offered services or accommodation by the local authority. In some cases you and your family may agree that it would be best if the local authority became involved in looking after you for a period.In some cases this may be achieved by offering you support at home. In other cases the local authority may be sufficiently concerned about your health, safety and welfare that compulsory measures are taken to protect you.
You should always be kept informed about what is happening if you are old enough to understand. Every effort should be made by both the local authority and any court or children’s hearings to let you give your view of the situation if you want to.
For more information, see Children who need local authority services and Children who are looked after by the local authority.
If you are aged 16 or over you can marry without parental consent.
If you are under 16 and you go through a marriage ceremony in Scotland, the marriage will be void. If you now live in Scotland but you got married by agreement in a country where there is a lower age limit, the marriage will be recognised as valid in Scotland.
For more information on marriage, see Getting married.
Parents under 16
Mothers under 16
If you are under 16 and have a baby, you have the same legal rights and responsibilities towards the child as any mother.
Benefits and tax credits
You can apply for a Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment to help with the costs of having a new baby. If you live with your parents, they may be able to apply for you if you'd prefer. Read more about the Best Start Grant.
As a young mother, you can claim Child Benefit once your baby is born.
Benefit claims in these circumstances can be complicated and you or your parents should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Help to buy milk, fruit and vegetables
If you are pregnant, you can get help with the costs of foods such as milk, fruit and vegetables. It doesn't matter what your income is. This is called the Best Start Foods scheme.
Once you’ve had your baby, you can continue to get Best Start Foods until your baby turns one. You might be able to carry on getting Best Start Foods after that point depending on your income or the income of your parents or carers.
Read our page on Best Start Foods for more information.
Local education authorities have a duty to ensure that all children under 16 receive an education. If you become a mother, this duty remains.
For more information, see Problems at school.
As a young mother you will normally be unable to obtain privately rented or council accommodation because you are too young to be granted a tenancy. However, you can contact the local authority social work department and ask it to find you accommodation, as long as your parents agree.
For more information, see Children who need local authority services.
If you have housing problems, you should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
As a young mother, you can apply to the Child Maintenance Service for a maintenance assessment to be carried out in respect of your child. This applies if you are not living with the father of your child.
For more information, see Child maintenance - where to start, or visit the child maintenance pages on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk. Child Maintenance Options provides help and support for maintenance arrangements on its website at www.cmoptions.org.
Fathers under 16
As a father aged under 16, you have no automatic parental responsibilities and rights. However, if you jointly register the birth of your child with the child's mother on or after 4 May 2006, you will automatically acquire full parental responsibilities and rights which you will share with the child's mother. Alternatively, if the mother agrees, you can make a parental responsibilities agreement with her before you are 16 but you may not be able to enforce any rights until you are 16.
If as a young father you need to seek advice about applying for a parental responsibility agreement, you should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
If you are aged under 16 and you father a child, the Child Maintenance Service can expect you to pay maintenance. Once the Child Maintenance Service is satisfied that you are the father, you will be expected to make maintenance payments when you begin earning or receiving a benefit.
For more information, see Child support for parents who live apart, or visit the child maintenance pages on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk. Child Maintenance Options provides help and support for maintenance arrangements on its website at www.cmoptions.org.
Wills and inheritance
If you are 12 or over you can make a legally valid will but you have to be 16 before you can act as an executor or trustee for the estate of a person who has died.
If you parents are not married you have the same rights as other children to inherit from both parents and their extended families. You cannot however inherit "titles" or "coats of arms".
For more information, see Scottish Government guide on what to do after a death.
Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People
85 Holyrood Road
Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young people promotes and safeguards the rights of children and young people living in Scotland.
Scottish Child Law Centre
54 East Crosscauseway
Adviceline: 0131 667 6333 (Mon-Fri 9.30am-4.00pm)
Freephone (for under 21s): 0800 328 8970 (landlines) or 0300 330 1421 (mobiles)
Administration: 0131 668 4400
Legal advice email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Scottish Child Law Centre promotes awareness about children's rights and provides legal advice.
Young Scot Extra
Young Scot offers free and confidential advice online, by e-mail and phone or text “callback” with a time you can be contacted to 07781 484317.
Further information for young people
For information about the general rights of children and young people, see Young people's rights.
For information about housing, see Young people and housing.
For information about employment, see Young people and employment.
For information about health and personal issues, see Young people - health and personal.
For information about the law and young people, see Young people and the law.
For information about concessionary fares, see Concessionary fares for younger people.