In last week’s blog, I looked at issues that could arise when one considers living together as a couple. Having children doesn’t affect anything that I wrote about in my previous article. But whereas living together doesn’t give rise to any legal claims for maintenance or against property, the birth of children will.
This article deals with the situation in respect of an unmarried couple. With married couples, children are for the most part taken care of by way of Financial Orders made between the husband and the wife.
Powers of the court
Most potential maintenance claims are now dealt with by the Child Support Agency (CSA). But that government department is giving way to a new scheme by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). For changes in child maintenance schemes, please see:
- Property and maintenance claims part 1: living as an unmarried couple without children
- Child Support agency: still failing to impress
In certain circumstances, the court does hold jurisdiction to make a Maintenance Order in favour of children. But not if the CSA or the CMS have jurisdiction.
The most common cases where you can make an application to the court are:
- Where the paying parent lives abroad
- Where maintenance is sought from a step parent – if you’ve married someone and supported their child then you could be liable to pay maintenance
- Whether the paying parent’s net income exceeds £104,000 per annum (£156,000 per annum gross under the CMS scheme)
Under the legislation of the Child Support Act, the court retains the right separately to make an Order in relation to school fees.
Again under the Child Support Act, the court holds the jurisdiction to make Maintenance Orders for disabled children. These Orders are on top of what you may claim under the CSA or CMS schemes.
Lump Sum Orders
Under the Children’s Act, where financial circumstances allow, the court can make a Lump Sum Order. This is for reimbursement of expenses connected with the birth of or maintenance of a child.
The court can make the order in retrospect and has to decide whether the expenditure or liability was reasonably incurred. The court can also make Lump Sum Orders to cover specific future expenditure. Such claims have included monies to buy a car to transport the children or for musical instruments and a range of other expenditure.
There's no limit on the number of lump sum claims that the court can make. But the court will only make Lump Sum Orders where the paying party can afford to make the payment. A court would not normally expect anyone to borrow money to fund such an Order.
Transfer or settlement of property
The court can order, where it can be afforded, the transfer or the funding for the purchase of a property for the children to live in. But the property, or such appropriate proportion of it, will revert to the provider of the property usually when the child leaves education. It is not a permanent transfer in favour of the children or the parent with whom the children live.