Young people and family

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales


If you are under the age of 18 you can be adopted, if you're 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 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. Check how to apply for your birth entry on the National Records of Scotland website

For more information about adoption, see Adopting a child 168 KB in Family fact sheets.

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.

Civil partnership

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

One Parent Families Scotland also have a Lone Parent Helpline, see contact details below.

One Parent Families Scotland

2 York Place 



Freephone Lone Parent Helpline: 0808 801 0323 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4pm)

Helpline Email:

Tel: 0131 556 3899



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

A parent, guardian or carer has a legal responsibility to ensure that their 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 children 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

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.

You might be eligible for a Scottish Child Payment. This a Scottish benefit for parents and carers on low incomes who have a child under six. Read more about the Scottish Child Payment.

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 or your partner are pregnant, you can get help with the costs of foods such as milk, fruit and vegetables from the Best Start Foods scheme. It doesn't matter what your income is.

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 until your child is 3 depending on your eligibility. 

Read more about Best Start Foods.


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.


If  you aren't living with your child's other parent, the Child Maintenance Service can arrange for them to pay maintenance. 

Read more about arranging child maintenance payments.

Fathers under 16

As a father aged under 16, you don't have any automatic parental responsibilities and rights. However, if you jointly register the birth of your child with the child's mother, you'll 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're 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're aged under 16 and you father a child, you'll have to make maintenance payments when you start earning money or get benefits. 

Read more about arranging child maintenance payments.

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 the Scottish Government guide on what to do after a death.

Young carer

If you're a young carer, you can ask for a Young Carer Statement. You are a young carer if you are under 18 or aged 18 and still at school. Find out more about Young Carer Statements and how to get one

You might be entitled to get a Young Carer Grant. It’s paid once a year to carers aged 16-18 years, who do at least 16 hours of caring a week on average, but don’t receive Carer’s Allowance. Check if you can get a Young Carer Grant.

Further help

Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland

The Children and Young people's Commissioner Scotland promotes and safeguards the rights of children and young people living in Scotland.

Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland

Bridgeside House

99 McDonald Road



Tel: 0131 346 5350

Young People's Freephone: 0800 019 1179

Text: 0770 233 5720

Website: contact form


Scottish Child Law Centre

The Scottish Child Law Centre promotes awareness about children's rights and provides legal advice.

Scottish Child Law Centre

91 George Street



Adviceline: 0131 667 6333, Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4.00pm

Freephone for under 21s: 0800 328 8970 (landlines) or 0300 330 1421 (mobiles)

Administration: 0131 668 4400


Legal advice email: 


The Why Not? Trust

The Why Not? Trust runs The Village, a digital community for new parents and parents-to-be with care experience where you can get information, access resources and reach out to others.

The Why Not? Trust

Bremner House

Castle Business Park



Tel: 01786 477810



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.