While it’s hard to miss the marked parent and child parking bays at your local supermarket, the rules surrounding their use are far from clear. Here, David Connor addresses the issues and explains what to do if you’re caught flouting the policies and hit with a fine.

Can I use the bays while pregnant?

Utilising the parent and child parking bays while pregnant is a very woolly area of law as pregnant women are with child, but not in the technical sense. Heavily pregnant women need extra space in the same way a parent with a small child would need extra room to load shopping and children into the car.

You’ll see designated priority spaces close to entrances on trains and buses – so public transport recognises this need – but there’s no law extending this to private car parks, meaning it’s at the land owner’s discretion.

Some areas of law such as personal injury cover ‘en ventre sa mere’ – meaning a child in a mother’s womb – but this currently doesn’t extend to contract law which governs car parking.

By entering a private car park, you’re effectively entering into a contract with the parking company, with the sign disclaimers creating the agreement. Closely monitor this signage as some do state the child must be with you to warrant parking in the parent and child spaces, while some don’t.

Are there age restrictions for these bigger bays?

In most situations, those under 18 are legally classed as children in the UK, while in some circumstances the law recognises that older children – usually aged 16-18 – have the ability to make decisions for themselves without parental consent.

Take note of any signage around the car park, as any specific age restrictions should be noted on here. It’ll state exactly the requirements you must meet to warrant parking in the parent and child spaces, so be cautious not to assume the spaces are for parents with those under the age of 18 – or you could be slapped with a parking fine.

Some supermarkets cater for parents with children up to the age of 12, while others are stricter and only allow mothers with infants or toddlers to take advantage of the bays.

Use judgement, as those with small children will need wider than average parking spaces to load shopping and children out of buggies and into car seats, while most older children will easily be able to get in and out of the car themselves, so wouldn’t necessarily need as much extra room.

Use caution and in the worst case if you’re slapped with a fine, you may be able to challenge it if the signage isn’t clear on whether or not the spaces can be used by pregnant women, as well as age restrictions, but this is at the discretion of each car parking firm’s stance.

For further information, or for advice on any family law matter, contact David Connor on 01706 225621 or david.connor@whnsolicitors.co.uk