Child Law - Common Terms and their Meaning

At Drummond Miller we are very conscious that instructing a solicitor can be a daunting prospect for people. Part of that is a fear of not being able to understand the processes and terminology. That is why we do our best to cut through the legal ‘jargon’ and explain things in plain and simple terms. Here are some common terms referred to in legal matters relating to children of separated parents.


Historically referred to as ‘custody’. It means where a child of separated parents has his/her main home. So if a child has his/her place of residence with X, it means that they live for most of the time with X.


Historically referred to as ‘access’. It means the time a child of separated parents sees the parent he/she doesn’t live with mainly. So if a child has contact with Y from a Friday to a Sunday each week, it means they stay with Y from a Friday to a Sunday each week.

Shared Care Arrangement

Where the time that 2 separated parents spend with a child is shared equally (or almost equally). That can be achieved in all sorts of ways. Some examples would be where the child spends 1 week with 1 parent and the next with the other, and so on, or where the child sees both parents each week, spending 3 nights with one parent and 4 with the other.

Parental Rights and Responsibilities (PRRs)

The mother of a child will have PRRs and the father of a child will share equal PRRs if they are married to mother when the child is born or named on the child’s birth certificate (for children born after 4th May 2006).

The parental responsibilities, generally, are:

  • to safeguard and promote the child’s health, development and welfare;
  • to provide, direction and guidance to the child;
  • to have ‘contact’ with the child on a regular basis, if the child is not living with you; and
  • to act as the child’s legal representative.

The parental rights generally are:

  • to have the child living with you;
  • to have ‘contact’ with the child on a regular basis, if the child is not living with you;
  • to control, direct or guide, in a manner appropriate to the stage of development of the child, the child’s upbringing; and
  • to act as the child’s legal representative

Where separated parents can’t agree the arrangements for residence and/or contact in respect of a child, solicitors can become involved to negotiate, for the purposes of reaching an agreement. The couple can also attend mediation to assist in reaching an agreement (explained below). Sometimes it becomes necessary for an action to be raised in court where a Sheriff or Judge makes a decision on the matter.


A process where a separated couple sit down with a trained mediator to discuss the issues and try to make progress on them, and to improve communication. The mediator will assist by keeping the issues as the focus and steering the conversation along to ensure it remains productive. Mediation is offered by a number of place, including CALM and Family Journeys. Lynne Stratford, Partner at our Dalkeith office and head of the Drummond Miller Family Law Team is a trained Mediator.

The Drummond Miller family law team is extremely experienced in dealing with all aspects of family law including separation, divorce, and child-related matters. If you would like any further information or advice, please get in touch with our experienced solicitors in Edinburgh, Dalkeith, Musselburgh or Bathgate