Family Justice Modernisation Strategy

Sets out our work to improve the family justice system in Scotland.

Glossary of Terms

Note: On-line access to legislation is available at[1]

“1965 Act” – The Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1965 “1986 Act” – The Family Law Act 1986

“1995 Act” – The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 “2006 Act” – The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006

“2011 Act” – The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011

“Child” – defined in section 1(2) of the 1995 Act as a person under the age of 16 for the purposes of parental responsibilities and rights apart from in relation to parents providing guidance where a child covers a person under the age of 18.

“Child Welfare Hearing” – when contact disputes reach court they are usually heard in Child Welfare Hearings. Child Welfare Hearings are usually held in private with both parties being present. They are intended to allow the sheriff to speak to the parties directly, identify the issues and establish how the issues are to be dealt with. Child Welfare Hearings are generally informal procedures.

“Child Welfare Reporter” – formerly called “bar reporters”. They are court appointed people who prepare reports on the best interests of the child or seek the views of the child.

“Children’s Hearing” – this is a legal meeting (often just called a Hearing), that children and young people are sometimes required to go to with their families or carers if there are concerns about the child or young person.

“Children’s Hearings Scotland” – Children’s Hearings Scotland is a public body with a role of recruiting, training and supporting around 2,500 skilled volunteer Panel Members who sit on Children’s Hearings.

“Children’s Hearings System” – the Children’s Hearings System deals with children and young people in Scotland under the age of 18 who are in need of help. The two main reasons why the Children’s Hearings System will help a child or young person are because they are in need of care and protection or because they have got into trouble with the police.

“Contact and residence cases” – used generally to refer to any proceedings where the court is considering whether to make an order for contact or residence under section 11(1) of the 1995 Act.

“Contact centre” – venue for facilitating contact between children, parents and other people in the child’s life.

“Curator ad litem” – an officer of the court who is appointed to represent and protect the interests of a person lacking full capacity, including a child.

ECHR” – European Convention on Human Rights.[2] An international treaty which protects human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. The Scottish Ministers are required to act compatibly with the terms of the ECHR.

FLC” – the Family Law Committee of the Scottish Civil Justice Council. Its role is to:

  • keep the relevant civil court rules under review;
  • consider and make proposals for modification and reform;
  • require that family actions and proceedings are dealt with as efficiently as possible;
  • review, develop and promote a case management structure for family actions; and
  • report to the Scottish Civil Justice Council with its recommendations and, where applicable, draft rules of court.[3]

“Legal Aid” – publicly funded legal assistance allowing people to pursue or defend their rights, or pay for their defence, when they could not otherwise afford to do so. When someone applies for legal aid, their application is subject to statutory tests which cover the merits of the case and the means available to the applicant.

“Lord President” – the most senior judge in Scotland and the head of the court judiciary.

“Principal Reporter” – an independent official within the Children’s Hearings System with powers to delegate functions to other officers in particular Children’s Reporters.

“primary legislation” – Acts of Parliament.

“proof” – final stage of court proceedings at which a sheriff determines a case after hearing evidence.

“PRRs” – parental responsibilities and rights as defined in the 1995 Act.

“Relevant Person” – someone who has the right to attend a Children’s Hearing and get information about it. A Relevant Person can be a parent (biological or adoptive) of the child, or someone with parental responsibilities. In addition, a hearing or pre- hearing panel can decide that someone should be treated as a Relevant Person because they have or recently have had, significant involvement in a child or young person’s upbringing. This is called “deeming” someone to be a Relevant Person. Someone with deemed Relevant Person status can have this reviewed at a later date if they no longer have significant involvement with the child or young person.

SCJC” – the Scottish Civil Justice Council prepares draft rules of procedure for the civil courts in Scotland and advises the Lord President on the development of the civil justice system in Scotland.

SCRA” – the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration is a national body focused on children and young people most at risk. Its main responsibilities are to facilitate the work of Children’s Reporters, to deploy and manage staff to carry out that work and to provide suitable accommodation for Children’s Hearings.

SCTS” – the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service is an independent body providing administrative support to Scottish courts and tribunals and to the judiciary.

“Secondary legislation” – forms of law that are not primary legislation. This includes statutory instruments.

“section 11 Order” – an order made by either the Court of Session or the sheriff court under section 11(1) of the 1995 Act in relation to parental responsibilities and rights, guardianship, the administration of a child’s property, who a child lives with or who a child should maintain personal relations and direct contact with.

“Sheriff” – a judge in the sheriff court. Sheriffs deal with the majority of civil and criminal court cases in Scotland. Sheriffs hear almost all family cases including divorce, child welfare, adoptions and Children’s Hearings’ cases.

SLAB” – Scottish Legal Aid Board. Manages the legal aid system in Scotland.

UNCRC” – the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.[4] An international treaty which covers all aspects of a child’s life and sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all children are entitled to and how adults and governments must work together to make sure all children can enjoy their rights. The Scottish Ministers have duties under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 to keep under consideration whether there are any steps which they could take to give better or further effect to the UNCRC requirements. The Scottish Government has consulted on incorporating the UNCRC into Scots Law.[5]



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