22 November 2023

Child Maintenance – are you claiming enough?

By Maria Endall, Associate Solicitor, Hayes + Storr.

Unfortunately, the current law as it relates to unmarried or cohabiting couples when they separate is less favourable than it is to married couples who benefit from greater financial protections. This can leave unmarried parents left with the primary care of the children financially vulnerable.

When married or unmarried parents separate, the non-resident parent (the parent with whom the children do NOT live with for most of the time) has a legal responsibility to help financially maintain the children – known as ‘child maintenance’.

The amount of child maintenance can either be agreed between the parents or either parent can apply to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) for an assessment of the non-resident parent’s liability. See Calculate your child maintenance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

However, a cap is applied to the amount of income that the non-resident parent earns when an assessment is carried out by the CMS. Therefore, any earnings over £156,000 per year are NOT taken into account when calculating their liability to pay maintenance. A top-up of child maintenance has to be applied for through the courts under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989.

As an unmarried parent with primary care of your children, you might need to consider making a claim under Schedule 1 for payments to meet your child’s education or training expenses (school or course fees and other related expenses) as well as claims for lump sums, settlement or transfer of property for the benefit of the child(ren).

Therefore, if a child has particular expenses that are not covered by the simple CMS calculation, such as school fees or a disability for which they require special equipment, therapy etc, or their housing needs are not adequately met after the parents’ separation, then a claim can be made to the court for a lump sum or for a transfer or settlement of property to the resident parent for the benefit of the child(ren). However, it will usually be the case that any property transferred to them by the non-resident parent will revert to the non-resident parent when the child(ren) reach the age of 18 or cease full-time education.

For more information about making a Schedule 1 claim in respect of your child or children, contact Maria Endall this Resolution Awareness week (between 27 November – 1 December 2023) on 01328 863231 or email: maria.endall@hayes-storr.com.