Holidays are Coming!

Holidays are Coming!

With summer rapidly approaching and holidays on the horizon, if you haven’t yet got a passport for your child, then get your skates on! I have just received a renewal passport for my daughter, and head off to sunnier climes in 38 days time (not that I’m counting!). I actually used the Government’s online passport service, completed the information and paid the fee, then printed off the form and sent it with a counter signed photograph to the Passport Office. Eight days later the new passport arrived! However, please allow as much time as possible as it is likely the Passport Office will get busier, the closer we get to the school summer holidays!

So, who is able to sign the child’s first passport or renewal passport application? Such applications require to be completed by a person with parental responsibility in relation to the child. The law in Scotland (which differs from the law in England and Wales) provides that the mother of a child can sign the passport application. Who the “mother” is may seem obvious, but it is the woman who gave birth to the child. This can cause a few difficulties in surrogacy situations, but the woman who gives birth to the child is the mother of the child for all legal purposes (until such time as that is changed, either by a parental order or by adoption).

The rules regarding fathers are slightly different, and the rules also depend on when the child was born and his or her birth registration. The important date is 4th May 2006, as this is the date that the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 provisions came into force.

For children born in Scotland, whose births were registered before 4th May 2006, if the child’s parents were married to each other then both parents have equal parental rights and responsibilities and either can sign. If the child’s parents were not married at the time the birth was registered, but have subsequently married, then both mother and father can sign the passport application. Even if the father’s name is on the birth certificate, but the child’s parents were not and have never been married to each other, the father in these circumstances is generally unable to sign.

For children born and whose births are registered after 4th May 2006, an unmarried dad can acquire parental rights and responsibilities if he is named on the birth certificate and both parents jointly register the birth, meaning either can apply for a passport. If the child’s parents are married to each other, then both parents have equal rights and responsibilities at the time of birth and subsequently (unless removed by order of the court), therefore either parent can complete the passport application.

Parental rights and responsibilities can also be acquired by the mother completing a Parental Responsibilities and Parental Rights Agreement in terms of section 4 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (or in some same sex situations a section 4A Agreement can be completed), or if the court has made an order granting the other party parental rights and responsibilities.

In some situations the court may also grant orders for parental rights and responsibilities to persons other than parents for example grandparents, step- parents, aunts and uncles. Even though a court may make an order of contact between a child and a parent, if that is the only order made, this does not entitle the parent exercising contact to complete a passport application. If the unmarried father is not named on the birth certificate and doesn’t fall into a category detailed above he cannot apply for a passport.

If there is any doubt as to who can complete the application or who has parental rights and responsibilities entitling them to complete the application then full advice can be found on the Government website www.gov.scot . Alternatively, give us a call and we would be happy to help!