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Financial Provision for Children
Most people understand that the court has the power to divide assets and order lump sum payments upon divorce or civil partnership dissolution. Many separated parents will also be aware of the work of the Child Maintenance Service (and its forerunner, the Child Support Agency), which assists in the calculation and collection of child maintenance where there has been a problem or dispute with payment. Perhaps less well-known is the court’s power to make a range of financial orders under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 and other child support legislation.
These orders can be made for the benefit of children whose parents have never been married or in a civil partnership or in some cases where a financial order on divorce has been finalised in the past.
At JMW we regularly advise parents on their financial rights and obligations under this legislation, including cases where one or both parents is high-profile and/or significantly wealthy. To speak to one of our family lawyers about your situation, get in touch today by calling 0800 652 5577 or fill in our online enquiry form and we will get back to you.
- Child Maintenance
- About Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989
- Maintenance Awarded by the Court
- How the Courts Decide
- Why Choose JMW
The majority of maintenance arrangements between separated parents are informal or family-based. Neither the court nor the Child Maintenance Service gets involved in setting the level of child maintenance or collecting the actual payments. If an appropriate level of maintenance is not being paid via an agreed arrangement, either parent can involve the Child Maintenance Service; however, the service is no longer free of charge for most cases.
For paying parents earning up to £3,000 gross per week, where the receiving parent and child are UK residents, any dispute regarding the level or collection of child maintenance will be dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service alone. They will calculate the amount of maintenance based on the paying parent’s income, the number of children in each relevant household and some specific other factors, including shared care, that may affect the amount payable.
About Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989
Where the paying parent has sufficient financial resources, the court can make one or a combination of the following orders:
- A maintenance order
- Lump sum orders to enable the receiving parent to pay expenses associated with bringing up the child, including provision of a car or furnishing a home
- An order that the paying parent provides a property for the child and the other parent to live in. The property is not usually transferred to the receiving parent outright. Instead, it is generally purchased on trust for the benefit of the child and reverts back to the parent who purchased it when the child reaches 18 years old
In some cases, it is possible for the child themselves to make an application.
The court can also make interim orders to help with the legal costs of pursuing an application.
Maintenance Awarded by the Court
Although child maintenance disputes are normally handled by the Child Maintenance Service, there are a few exceptions to this. The court has discretion to make a maintenance order if:
- The paying parent earns more than £3,000 gross per week (£156,000 per year). In this case, the court can award ‘top-up’ maintenance
- It is deemed appropriate to enable a child to attend a fee-paying school or for a parent to assist with other educational expenses, including university costs
- The child is disabled and a maintenance order is needed to meet expenses associated with their disability
How the Courts Decide
The court has a checklist of factors to consider before deciding what order to make, if any. These include:
- the income, earning capacity, property and financial resources of each parent
- the child’s financial needs and any resources they may have of their own
- any disability on the part of the child
- how the child is being educated and any future plans for their education
It is difficult to say what level of income or assets a paying parent needs to have before the court will consider making an order for lump sums, housing provision or maintenance to cover educational expenses or costs associated with a child’s disability. Some of the reported cases suggest that this type of financial provision is not only for the very wealthy. There have been instances of parents with fairly modest means being ordered to assist with housing and other costs, in addition to any maintenance liability.
Why Choose JMW?
We have acted successfully for parents seeking financial provision from a former partner and for paying parents who wish to limit their liability to what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances. Our family law solicitors have substantial experience dealing with property settlements and trust arrangements to provide housing for dependent children, and in maintenance cases involving very high-earning parents. We will provide you with early, realistic advice and, where necessary, assist with making an interim application to fund your legal costs.
Talk to Us
To speak to a solicitor about financial provision for children, get in touch with the family law team by calling 0800 652 5577 or by filling in our online enquiry form.