Unmarried Parents – financial support for children

Any individual parent [or guardian who has been granted a residence order] can apply. The application is made against one or both of the child’s parents. A “parent” in this context means a natural birth parent, or any party to a marriage/civil partnership for whom the child is, or was, treated as a child of the family (e.g. a step-parent or civil partner).

Financial support for children – the court orders available

The court can make one or more of the following orders:

1. Maintenance – either periodical payments and secured periodical payments. The applicant can typically only apply for maintenance for child/children if a Child Support Agency calculation has been approved and the respondent is paying the maximum amount possible. The practical effect of this is that a Schedule 1 application is usually only made when the respondent is wealthy. However, a claim for maintenance could be a possibility in other situations, such as for paying for school fees, providing extra help for any disability the child may suffer, or if the respondent is living abroad. In the first instance any order for child maintenance will be made until the child reaches age 17 – but there is a possibility the court may extend the length of such an order beyond the age of 17 if the child is still in education or training.

2. The court can request that a lump sum be paid to cover things such as; clothes, furnishings, computer, car etc. Anything this financial support is used for must be for the benefit of the child. “For the benefit of the child” has been widely interpreted in one groundbreaking case for example, the court awarded the applicant a fund to travel to Sudan to see her child and pursue legal proceedings there.

3. Settlement/transfer of property – a child’s housing provision can be made by the court. If the decision benefits the child, then the court can settle property on trust, allowing a guardian and child to live rent free and at the exclusion of the respondent. Upon the child turning 18, the life interest given to the child by the court will revert to the provider.

The levels of housing provision in Schedule 1 cases seems to be on the rise, and lump sum payments for legal fees have been held to be satisfactory in principle.

Although these days it is the Child Support Agency who initially deal with most issues of maintenance for children, if your situation is a little unusual – or if it is covered by any of the examples above, why not give one of our specialist family lawyers a ring today – any initial advice over the phone is FREE.