Cohabiting couples – financial provision for your children
In 2019, research by the University of Exeter revealed that 55% of cohabiting couples with children believed that common law marriage exists. Unfortunately, it does not exist and there are little to no financial remedies as a result of a cohabiting relationship breaking down. However, there are some remedies in respect of the children.
The parent with whom the child lives with (“the resident parent”) can make an application for financial provision from the other parent (“the non-resident parent”). There are two aspects of financial provision: maintenance and capital claims.
Where both parents and child(ren) live in the UK, the first port of call is the Child Maintenance Service (“CMS”). The resident parent makes the application for child maintenance to be paid by the non-resident parent. If the child spends equal time with both parents, so that there is not a ‘parent with care’, the CMS cannot process the application. If the parents cannot agree, the application would need to come before the Court.
The CMS calculates the maintenance that is payable according to a formula. A parent can carry out their own child maintenance calculation via the gov.uk website. If the parents cannot agree as to which is the correct calculation, they can apply to the CMS to make a calculation, but they do charge a fee for this. The CMS can also be involved in collecting funds from the non-resident parent and paying money to the resident parent. Again, the CMS will charge a fee to both parties for this service.
A parent can also make an application to the Court for various additional financial needs in respect of the children, for example:
- Housing fund;
- A car;
- School fees and other educational costs; and
- Lump sum (typically for car, redecoration, furniture etc.)
However, all these payments must be for the benefit of the child, not the parent. Normally, the financial benefit to the child will not extend beyond the child’s 18th birthday, unless the child is or will be in training or education, or there are special circumstances (for example, the child has a disability). For example, application can be made for the house to be held on trust until then and at which point the property would automatically revert back to the paying parent.
Even though there are some financial remedies available for the benefit of the children, the law still leaves the financially weaker party in a vulnerable position as soon as the children turn 18 or finish their training or education. The current law takes little or no account for the considerable contribution that has been made to the family during those years and the impact it can have on one party’s ability to secure their financial future.
For cohabiting couples, or indeed married couples, if you are experiencing a relationship breakdown, please speak to one of our family solicitors in confidence in a no-obligation consultation. Please call 01473 617 317 for more information.
Katherine Parker is a trainee solicitor in the Family Department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Suffolk.