Who supports the children?
Cohabitees have limited financial claims against each other on the breakdown of their relationship. For example, they cannot claim maintenance for themselves or share in their partner’s assets like a married couple can on divorce. However, where there are children involved, the position is very different. Parents who are separating are obliged to ensure that they are providing appropriate financial provision for their children.
The starting point is child maintenance. The parent who has the child living with them more than 50% of the time is able to claim child maintenance from the other parent to help towards the child’s living costs.
The amount payable is based on a standard formula which takes into account the payer’s income and the amount of overnight stays the child has with the payer. Parents are encouraged to agree child maintenance between themselves, but where this is not possible, a parent can make a claim to the Child Maintenance Service.
A parent who has day to day care of a child can also make an application to the Family Court for financial provision for the child. The court’s powers include making orders for housing, education expenses, costs associated with a disability and top-up maintenance orders where there is a child maintenance calculation in place but where the respondent is a very high earner.
When looking at these applications, the court will take into account both parents’ financial circumstances. This includes income, earning capacity, property and financial resources as well as financial needs, obligations and responsibilities both now and in the future. The court’s focus will be on what the child needs and what is affordable.
It can be quite difficult to predict the award that the court will make. As a result court proceedings can be uncertain and expensive, and it is better if parents can agree these issues directly or by using a different form of dispute resolution such as mediation.
Our specialist family lawyers have lots of experience in advising parents on their financial responsibilities towards their children. Whether you are the payer or the payee, if you need further advice get in touch using our dedicated hotline.