Family Law Blog

Financial obligations of unmarried parents

06 August 2014, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors

Unmarried parents and married parents are treated differently when they separate. Although the number of children born to unmarried couples has more than doubled since the 1990s there has been no legislation to put unmarried couples on the same footing as married couples.

A poll carried out by One Plus One last year found that 47% of the population between the age of 18 and 34 wrongly assumed that unmarried couples had the same legal rights as married couples. 58% of all age groups believed that common law marriage existed.

Unfortunately although the parent with whom the children live can apply to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) for child support it is not possible for them to seek financial support for themselves from their ex partner. Married couples in divorce proceedings are able to apply for spousal maintenance.

One option for an unmarried parent  is to make a claim under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 to claim additional financial support for the benefit of the children. This does not enable the parent with the children to obtain maintenance for themselves but the court can order that funds are made available to pay for a nanny, school fees and expenditure specifically referable to raising the children. The court can even order the non resident parent to provide a home for the children. However, that property will revert back to the non resident parent once it is no longer required as  a home for the children. The resident parent acquires no proprietary interest in that property.

Where the non resident parent has a gross income of more than £156,000 then it is possible to apply for top up maintenance over and above the maximum amount paid under the CMS provisions. This will only apply to a limited number of unmarried couples.