Understanding family law can often seem like navigating a complex labyrinth of legal jargon and statutes. One such piece of legislation that frequently comes up in Scottish family law is Section 37. In this post, we delve into what Section 37 of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 entails and its implications for families in Scotland.

What is Section 37?

Section 37 of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 is a provision that allows a court to make an order regarding the financial obligations between certain family members. This is also known as an ‘ailment’ provision. Aliment is a legal term in Scotland referring to the duty to maintain or support a family member financially.

The Purpose of Section 37

The primary objective of Section 37 is to ensure that family members who are unable to support themselves can seek financial assistance from those who have a legal obligation to provide for them. This section is often invoked in situations where spouses or civil partners separate, and one party requires financial support from the other.

When is Section 37 Applied?

Section 37 can be applied in various situations. Some of the most common include:

  • Spousal Support: Following a divorce or separation, one spouse may be required to provide financial support to the other, particularly if there is a disparity in income or earning potential.
  • Child Support: Parents must support their children financially. While child maintenance is typically addressed under separate regulations, Section 37 can come into play if there are specific circumstances that fall outside standard child support arrangements.
  • Support for Education or Training: A family member may seek aliment to support their education or training to improve their earning capacity, particularly if they have been financially dependent on another family member.

How Does the Court Determine Aliment?

When deciding on an aliment request under Section 37, the court considers several factors:

  • The Needs of the Applicant: The financial needs of the person asking for support are carefully assessed.
  • The Ability to Pay: The court also looks at the ability of the other party to provide financial support.
  • Lifestyle During the Marriage or Partnership: The standard of living enjoyed by the parties during their marriage or civil partnership is a factor in determining the amount of aliment.
  • Earning Capacity and Financial Resources: Both parties’ potential to earn and their financial resources, including property and savings, are taken into account.

Controversies and Challenges

The application of Section 37 can be a point of contention. Critics argue that aliment can sometimes lead to unfair financial burdens on the party required to pay. Conversely, proponents believe it is a necessary measure to prevent financial hardship upon separation, particularly for individuals who have been out of the workforce due to caregiving responsibilities.


Section 37 of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 is a critical provision that underscores the legal obligation to support family members in need. While its application can be complex and occasionally contentious, it represents an important aspect of the legal framework designed to protect the financial welfare of individuals following the breakdown of family relationships.

Navigating Section 37 requires a nuanced understanding of the law and its application. If you find yourself in a situation where aliment might be an issue, it is advisable to seek legal counsel to understand your rights and obligations fully.

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