If a child can't live with their parents for any reason, they might live with extended friends, family or another trusted adult.
If a child needs to live with you, and you're not their parent, you can apply to become the child's guardian. This means you'll get 'parental responsibilities and rights' for the child.
Parental responsibilities and rights allow you to make important decisions for the child, such as where they live, who they spend time with and other things about the child's upbringing (like their religion or school).
How to become a child's guardian
There are 2 ways you can become a child's guardian:
- you can be made a child's guardian in a will (or another written document signed by the parent) if a parent dies
- you can ask a court to appoint you as a guardian
If you're asked to become a guardian in a will (or another written document signed by the parent), and another parent or guardian of a child is still alive, their rights don't change. This means it's up to all parents and guardians to agree what's best for a child.
If you're made a guardian in a will (or another written document signed by the parent) you don't have to apply to become a legal guardian.
Once you become the child's guardian, you may want to appoint another legal guardian for the child in your will. Find information on making a will on the Citizens Advice Scotland website.
Where to get advice
You may want to get legal advice from a solicitor before you apply to be a child's guardian. You can also get advice if you've been asked to become a guardian in a will and you're not sure what to do.
If you're on a low income and can't afford your legal costs, you might be able to get legal aid.
For more information on becoming a guardian, contact the Scottish Child Law Centre on 0800 328 8970.
Help with money for guardians
As a guardian, you may be entitled to money to help you support the child you're taking care of.
You may be able to claim Child Benefit if you're responsible for a child under 16 and no one else is claiming for that child.
If you need support with your Child Benefit application or have a general enquiry you can:
- ask a question about your Child Benefit
- request a webchat on the GOV.UK website
- phone the helpline on 0300 200 3100
- send a text on 0300 200 3103
You may also get Guardian's Allowance on top of Child Benefit if you're bringing up a child whose parents have died. You may also be eligible if there's one surviving parent.
If you need support with your application or have a general enquiry you can:
- send a message via an online form
- contact the helpline on 0300 200 3101
- send a text message on 0300 200 3103