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Unmarried Parent- Financial Claims on Separation

Unmarried Parent- Financial Claims on Separation

When you are an unmarried parent the thought of separating from your partner can be pretty terrifying when your partner is the main breadwinner and they are the legal owner of the family home. Some unmarried partners think they have the same family law rights as a married person. That isn’t true. Others think they have no rights. That isn’t true either. In this article we look at the rights of an unmarried parent and financial claims on separation.

Online and London Family Law Solicitors

For advice about your legal rights as an unmarried parent and your financial claims on separation call the expert family lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

Unmarried parents

The first question to ask is are you an unmarried parent in a cohabiting relationship or were you in an unmarried relationship and now separated? From the point of view of court proceedings and financial support, you may only qualify for financial help from your ex-partner if your child or children remain dependant on you. If your children are grown up and independent then whilst you are an unmarried parent (as your children will always be your children, whatever their age) you won't have any financial claims related to your status as their unmarried parent. If your child is at university, or will shortly be leaving home to go to college, financial claims for your children will be more limited than if you have young children.

Cohabiting relationship  

Sometimes unmarried parents contact our family lawyers for help but say they know they don’t have financial claims because they did not actually live with their partner, although they had a child or children with their ex. This could be because your partner remains married or because of personal preferences. A family solicitor will tell you that many of your financial claims stem from your status as an unmarried parent rather than whether you lived with your partner in a cohabiting relationship.

Unmarried parents and financial claims on separation    

If you are an unmarried parent with dependent children, you can make the following financial claims if you separate from the child’s other parent:

  • Child support – child support is only payable if you are the main carer. If care is shared equally neither parent has to pay child support even if one parent earns more than the other parent. A child support lawyer can tell you how much you will get in child support or the amount you will have to pay. If you can't reach a child support agreement then you can ask the Child Maintenance Service to carry out an assessment for child support. The amount of child support payable and the method of calculation is exactly the same for married and unmarried parents. The Child Maintenance Service can award child support to a maximum level, depending on your partner’s income.
  • Top up child support – if the Child Maintenance Service makes a maximum child support assessment you can apply to the family court for top up child support to cover extras. The extras will be based on your partner’s income and reasonable outgoings as well as the standard of living enjoyed by your child during the relationship. For example, if your child used to go to ballet or riding lessons or went skiing each year.
  • School fees order – if you both agree that your child or children should be privately educated you can ask the court to make a school fees order so your ex-partner has to pay the school fees or contribute towards them. If your ex-partner opposes your child being privately educated then you can ask the court to make a specific issue order to specify the school your child should attend.
  • Lump sum order – if you need a cash lump sum for the benefit of your child, and the child’s other parent has the means to pay, you can ask the court to make a lump sum order. For example, to pay for a piano for the child or other expensive item needed for the child’s benefit.
  • Disability or special needs expenses order – if your child has a disability and there are special expenses relating to the disability, such as the need for an electric wheelchair or hydrotherapy sessions that aren’t available on the NHS, then you can apply to the family court for an order to cover the extra costs relating to your child’s disability. The disability does not have to be a physical one. For example, you may need to pay for extra childcare help if your child is autistic or you may need extra money to pay for additional tuition if your child is on the spectrum.
  • Housing help – the family court can be asked to order that a property be transferred or held in trust for the benefit of a child until a specified event occurs. For example, until your youngest child reaches the age of eighteen or completes their full-time secondary education or their university course. When the specified event occurs, the property reverts back to the ownership of your former partner. This type of help therefore doesn’t provide you or your child with a home for life but can offer a stop gap if you are not able to make a property claim against a former family home owned in your partner’s sole name because of the strict operation of property law in resolving the financial claims of cohabiting and unmarried couples on separation.

How does the court decide to make a financial order for an unmarried parent on separation?

When the court is being asked to make an order under schedule one of the Children Act 1989, the court will consider:

  • The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources each parent has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future and
  • The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities each parent has or is likely to have in the future and  
  • The financial needs of the child and, where relevant, the income, earning capacity (if any), property and other financial resources of the child and
  • The disability of the child and
  • The manner in which the child was being, or expected to be, educated or trained.

Do unmarried parents have claims in their own right under family law?

Although you can't apply for spousal maintenance or a pension sharing order if you are unmarried, you may still be able to make a claim against a property, even if the house is owned in your partner’s sole name. To pursue a claim, in addition to any housing claims made on behalf of your child, you will need to show that you have a legal or equitable interest in the property under property law. It is in your best interests to take legal advice from a specialist family solicitor on whether you have a potential interest in a property solely owned by your partner or jointly owned. That’s because if you have a property claim you will be entitled to some equity when the property is sold rather than just housing help until your child reaches eighteen or leaves university.

Online and London Family Law Solicitors

For advice about your legal rights as an unmarried parent and your financial claims on separation call the expert London family lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

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