Court dismisses child maintenance appeal

Divorce|December 23rd 2014

The mother of six year-old boy has failed in a bid to secure higher child maintenance payments from the father.

Re A (A Child) concerned ‘S’, whose parents underwent an Islamic wedding ceremony. The father was a member of a wealthy family with a prominent position in a Middle Eastern country. At the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice Macur noted that:

“The marriage is not recognised in England and founds no basis for financial orders in the mother’s own right in this jurisdiction.”

The parents’ relationship quickly ended, without them ever even living under the same roof. The father has had no contact with his son, nor has he indicated plans to seek any.

He was ordered to pay the mother child maintenance of £204,000 per year, under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. This governs ‘financial provision for children’. She requested £668,799 – a figure described by lady Justice Macur as “obviously inflated”. At an earlier hearing, Mr Justice Bodey had also characterised her request as “really a former wife’s budget rather than a Schedule 1 budget”.

Her application to increase the child maintenance payments was refused. The mother appealed.

She argued that the father had not fully disclosed his assets, having made use of the so-called ‘millionaire’s defence” to avoid making a detailed disclosure of his wealth. Consequently, she said, the child maintenance award did not properly provide for S’s needs.

But the Court of Appeal was unimpressed by the claims, saying that Schedule 1 of the Children Act made no provision for any payment beyond the immediate needs of the child in question.

Lady Justice Macur declared:

“The literal or purposive [for a specific purpose] interpretation of Schedule 1 does not permit of the concept of [wealth] sharing or compensation for the benefit of the child, nor, by the back door, financial provision and compensation for the carer beyond that element attributable to the care of the child during his minority…”

Determining the financial needs of a child under Schedule 1 would not normally require a detailed examination of the paying party’s financial assets, even when they were very wealthy, the Judge added.

Read the full judgement here.

Image by Nick Kenrick via Flickr

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  1. Andrew says:

    On costs this passage is interesting

    “The mother must act responsibly in the stewardship of the monies that are paid for S’s benefit. She is not entitled to assume that a court will countenance her unmerited applications by declining to order costs against her or ordering further lump sums to be paid by the father to make good the shortfall.”

    Similar reasoning could and should apply in divorce. It is often argued that Calderbank offers could “disrupt” an order which was crafted to keep a roof over the heads of the wife and children. But there too, a wife should be expected to ask responsibly in the stewardship of the assets of the couple, and not assume that the court will countenance her refusal to accept more than was merited (ex hypothesi if she has failed to beat the offer) by declining to order costs against her. Of course in many cases it would be necessary to postpone payment until one or more of the children was older – on Mesher terms and with the sort of penal interest which is applied under CPR Part 36.

    So many of the cases which get reported would never reach court if Calderbank or Part 36 were available as it used to be.

  2. Anon says:

    I know how she feels. Only 200k per year, how does she do it? Has she thought about applying for council housing?

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