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Not married and maintenance: what are you entitled to?

We have published a number of articles previously on the blog about the myths of cohabitation and the lack of legal rights for unmarried couples. (You can have a read here.)

One fact that is correct though is that there is some opportunity for financial provision for any children of the separating parents (although it does come with strict criteria).

To help explain, we invited James Scarborough from our St Alban’s office to join us on the blog to look at what financial provision, if any, is available for unmarried separating parents.

“I often find, when advising clients who are parents but not married, that they are unaware there is scope for receiving or paying maintenance for the children.

This is a complicated area of family law, but it is often to my client’s surprise when I explain there is legislation (Section 15 and schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 if you need the details) that provides for the parent with day to day care of the child the potential to apply for:


Lump sum

Transfer or settlement of property

I have encountered confusion from my clients in relation to the first point on this list, as they rightly explain they thought that payments for the benefit of children are regulated by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).

However, the court does have the power to consider a claim for maintenance in the following very specific circumstances:

The non-resident parent’s income is higher than the limit where the CMS deals with maintenance (currently £156k pa gross);


in respect of educational expenses;


for expenses connected with a child’s disability;

It is worth me reiterating that there is no automatic entitlement to additional maintenance through the courts, simply by meeting the above criteria. For example, if one parent earns £157k pa, it does not automatically mean that the other party should expect the court to award additional maintenance to that they would have to pay under the CMS.

In considering any claims for maintenance (if the above criteria are met), lump sums or transfer/settlement of property, the court will consider:

The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each person has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future.

The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each person has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;

The financial needs of the child;

The income, earning capacity (if any), property and other financial resources of the child;

Any physical or mental disability of the child;

The way the child was being, or was expected to be, educated.

It is important to remember that the sole intention of this legislation is to provide for any children. As a result, except in special circumstances, any order is only likely to provide until the youngest child is 18 or finishes secondary education.

Married or divorced parents can also make these applications although they are more likely to rely upon separate legislation. Therefore, I find that it is cohabiting / unmarried parents who benefit most from this advice.

Get in touch,

Our specialist family lawyers frequently advise unmarried couples who are separating to understand their rights. If you would like to speak to a member of client care team you can make an online enquiry here or call the number below.

You can contact James Scarborough here.

James is Head of our Berkhamsted office and partner in our St Albans office. He studied at the University of Sheffield and the College of Law in London.  James has experience in a breadth of family law issues, including divorce, finances, unmarried cohabiting couples and children disputes. He takes a practical approach to his cases and aims to provide clear, straightforward advice. As a member of Resolution, amicable agreements are at the forefront of his approach, but he is equally adept at progressing matters by way of court applications where appropriate.

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