Child Maintenance for Unmarried High Earners

03/02/2020
Author: Pippa Tudor

PippaTudor, a family lawyer at Russell & Russell Solicitors, who acts on behalf of high net worth clients, explains about financial claims by unmarried parents for the benefit of their child/children.

According to the Office for National Statistics, a change in social and demographic trends over the last decade has seen cohabitingcouples as the fastest growing family type. Earning capacity has also changed significantly. The number of people earning £3,000 gross per week - £156,000 a year - is far more common than a decade ago and no longer restricted to the realms of footballers and film stars.

When unmarried parties separate, unlike married couples, they do not have any claims against each other as a result of their relationship. When there are children of the relationship the only claim that a parent has is for child maintenance – a monthly sum of money that the non-resident parent pays for the benefit of the child. This is calculated by the Child Maintenance Service on a fixed formula.

This said, Schedule 1 of the Children Act can help in dealing with the financial needs of a child. 

It allows unmarried parents to apply to Court for the benefit of the child for top up child maintenance where the Child Maintenance Service has assessed that the payer’s income exceeds the maximum of £3,000 gross per week.    

Schedule 1 applications, however, are not restricted to maintenance. The Court also has the power to order a lump sum of money for the child or even the transfer and settlement of property, again for the benefit of the child.

Claims only relate to the needs of the child and so any allocation of property for the benefit of housing a child will usually only last until the child reaches 18.  Likewise, any maintenance will stop when the child reaches 18, although the court has the power to make orders for maintenance and lump sums for children over the age of 18 if they carry on in full time education or where special circumstances exist, such as disability.

As more people earning higher salaries choose to live together rather than marry, it’s increasingly likely for separating couples with children to be affected by Schedule 1. In these instances it’s vital to seek legal advice to ensure an outcome which does not see the children lose the life they are used to.

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