Financial rights for unmarried parents

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If you are not married and your relationship has broken down there is no legal requirement for maintenance to be paid by one of you to the other. However, if you have a child together you both have a financial obligation towards that child.

Child maintenance

A parent who does not live with the child for the majority of the time has a legal obligation to pay child maintenance to the parent who does. The maintenance is for the benefit of the children, not the parent. The Child Maintenance Service use a specific, and complicated, formula to calculate the amount that should be paid. Generally speaking, the calculation is based on the ‘non resident’ parent’s income and the number of nights the child stays with that parent. Other factors are also taken into account, such as other children that the payer may be responsible for. Family Law Partners have developed their own child maintenance calculator which will carry out the calculation for you using the information that you input – the calculation is based on the Child Maintenance Service rules, however it is easier to use than other calculators you may find online.

You can find our calculator here:

Generally, child maintenance is reviewed each year. Payments might be affected by changes in circumstances, for example a change in the paying parent’s income or family circumstances.

Many parents use the calculator as the basis of a voluntary agreement, known as a ‘Family Based Arrangement’. There is no obligation to pay any additional support/maintenance over and above the CMS formula. However, many parents often agree to share costs such as extra-curricular activities, clubs, travel and school uniform as part of their agreements.

If parents cannot reach a family based arrangement about the payment of child maintenance, the parent living with the child can make an application to the CMS who can assess and collect the child maintenance payments from the other parent. However, there are charges for formally using the Child Maintenance Service which, at present, include:

  • £20 application fee
  • 20% collection fee for the paying parent on top of their usual child maintenance for using the Collect & Pay service
  • 4% collection fee deducted from the usual child maintenance for receiving parents using the Collect & Pay service
  • A range of enforcement charges for paying parents who don’t pay their child maintenance in full and on time.

Other financial claims for children

Under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 the family court has the power to make various financial orders for the benefit of a child or children such as: –

  • An order that a property is transferred or purchased for a parent until the child reaches 18 or completes full time secondary or university education at which point the property reverts back to the payer.
  • An order that regular payments are made to a parent to meet the costs of the child’s disability or school fees, or (in specific circumstances) to provide additional maintenance on top of child support which is paid via the Child Maintenance service if the non-resident parent earns more than £3,000 gross per week (£156,000 per annum).

Unlike the specific formula adopted by the CMS the court has wide discretion when dealing with an application under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. When deciding what order to make, the Judge will consider all the circumstances of a case, but in particular they will have regard to the following factors in relation to the parties:

  • Income, earning capacity, property, financial resources has/is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
  • Financial needs, obligations and responsibilities has/is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
  • Financial needs of the child;
  • Income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources of the child;
  • Physical or mental disability of the child;
  • Manner in which the child was being or was expected to be educated or trained.

Our specialist Cohabitation Team are experts in assisting unmarried couples when a separation occurs. Please contact us to discuss your unique circumstances.

2 responses on “Financial rights for unmarried parents

  1. Hi. My partner and I are not married and have recently split up. We have a daughter who has just turned 2.
    Me and my daughter have had to leave the family home as it was his house and I am not a home owner.
    He is paying me child maintenance based on the online calculator. However, he is a high earner and earns ?40k a month.
    Me and my daughter are renting a house, to which he pays half the rent and universal credit pay the rest, I have to claim benefits as I have my job up when I had our daughter to look after her.
    The universal credit does not cover all the bills so I have to use the child maintenance allowance to pay for bills etc.
    Can you give me.any idea on what I’m entitled to and how much maintenance I could claim off him? As he lives in a house worth a million and drives super cars and has the best quality of life with him. I am worried my daughter will feel the difference between lifestyles as I can’t afford for her what he can. She lives with me but usually sees her dad for 1 day and 2 nights per week.

    1. Dear Jemma. Thank you for your post. I would strongly recommend that you seek advice from a Resolution family lawyer as soon as possible. Given that your former partner is a high earner you may wish to consider the options available to you and your daughter under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. As you will have read from the blog you may be entitled to make a claim for additional maintenance on top of the child support which is paid via the Child Maintenance Service because your former partner earns more than ?3,000 gross per week. We are unable to provide specific advice as to what you may be entitled to within this forum. If we can assist on a formal basis please get in touch and we will be happy to help you.

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