01 February 2017
Need extra financial support for your child?
One of the biggest concerns for any parent who has separated from their partner will be household finances, particularly where there are children to provide for.
If you are concerned that the financial arrangements you have made with your former partner are not sufficient to meet your child’s needs (and usually if you were not married), it may be possible to ask the court to make extra provision using Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989.
What does Schedule 1 of the Children Act do?
The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) has priority in deciding how much child maintenance should be paid, but this calculation only takes into account gross weekly income (before tax but after pension contributions) up to £3,000. Once that maximum assessment ceiling is reached and a maximum assessment has been made, the court has jurisdiction. The same is true if one of the parents being asked to pay or the child lives abroad.
Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 allows you to ask the court to make extra financial provision for your child from their parent, step-parent or former step-parent (if you were married).
This may be the case in terms of maintenance if your former partner earns more than £156,000 gross per year and your child’s needs (which in high income cases can include a so-called carer’s allowance) cannot be met from the CMS amended maintenance.
What financial assistance is available?
The types of financial provision that can be made include:
• Regular (“periodical”) payments (to top-up the CMS assessment);
• School fees or other educational expenses;
• Periodical payments secured by a capital deposit;
• One-off capital (“lump sum”) payment, for example to furnish or equip a house, hospital hosts or a family car, which may be paid by instalments;
• Transfer of property (this will however be an outright transfer to the parent or to the child lasting beyond their dependency); or
• Placing property under a trust for your child’s benefit.
These payments will be made either directly to the child or to the person applying for assistance. The important thing to note is that the payment is made to the applicant on the child’s behalf. It cannot be used as a means of topping up your divorce settlement or seeking financial provision for yourself.
Who can apply?
You can apply for financial assistance on a child’s behalf if you are a parent, guardian, court-appointed guardian (“special guardian”) or anyone in whose favour an order determining with whom a child is to live (“residence order”) has been made.
How long does the assistance last?
A periodical payments order will not last beyond the child’s 17th birthday, unless there are extenuating circumstances, and never beyond their 18th birthday (other than the above exception).
What sort of factors will the court take account of when deciding whether to make an order?
The court will consider both you and your former partner’s financial resources and requirements. It will also consider your child’s financial needs, any disability they have, any financial resources your child has and their educational or training needs.
If your former partner is not the father or mother of the child, the court will also consider:
• Whether they have assumed responsibility for the child;
• To what extent, why and for how long;
• Whether they knew the child was not theirs; and
• Anyone else’s liability to maintain the child.
For further information and advice, please contact Claire Filer in B P Collins’ family practice.