Cheryl and Liam: What happens when you have children but you’re not married? Applications under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989
It was recently reported that Cheryl and Liam have decided to separate. They are not married and have one child together. They are likely to reach an agreement through their solicitors as they have indicated that they are on amicable terms and their priority is their son, Bear. However, what is the law in England and Wales for the financial provision of children when unmarried parents separate?
The courts have the power to make orders concerning capital and property for the benefit of the children. An application can be made for the transfer of a property or a lump sum payment. Usually the property which is transferred or purchased using a lump sum would be held in trust for the children for their minority (usually until they turn 18 or finish full time or tertiary education, which is the later). The parent with care of the children can normally live in the property rent free during that period of time. When the children turn 18 or finish full time education the property would be sold and the proceeds of sale would be paid back to the parent who originally owned the property or paid the lump sum. If a lump sum is ordered to help reimburse specific child related costs, that would probably not be repayable.
Generally, the courts no longer have the power to make child maintenance orders. The child maintenance service now deals with all applications. The court can make an agreed order regarding child maintenance but after 12 months either parent can revert to the child maintenance service for a child maintenance assessment. The court can however make orders in the following situations (which are not affected by the 12 month rule):
- Your ex-partner lives abroad.
- You have extra expenses e.g. school fees
- Your ex-partner has a very high income
Therefore, if you have separated, were not married and have children together you should seek legal advice on your rights in relation to financial provision for your children.
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