Left holding the baby? Your financial rights…

Family separation

When you start a family with your partner, you hope that you will both raise your child together in your family home.

But while parents are increasingly sharing care of their children, when a relationship breaks down it is generally the mother who will be left ‘holding the baby’. And there are financial consequences involved.

Of course, some people reach an amicable financial settlement, with many fathers – or mothers, if the role is reversed – very willing and happy to pay to support their children.

But what if this isn’t the case? How do you make sure you’re getting a fair financial settlement to bring up your child particularly in circumstances where you are not married to, or in a civil partnership with, the other parent?

Child Maintenance Service

If your former partner isn’t paying the agreed maintenance, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) can step in on your behalf. However, they can only do this for people who earn £3,000 gross per week or less – anything over that amount won’t be taken into account. Plus, they can only consider declared income and they do charge for this service.

So what if your child’s father is wealthy, but disguising his income to avoid making payments to you? The CMS can’t do much here, but the court can – under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989.

What does this mean?

The court’s role is to consider what’s best for your child and how to give them a consistent standard of living. This helps to avoid a situation where a child is effectively living two separate lives with a ‘rich’ parent and a ‘poor’ parent. It also creates balance for the less-wealthy parent – after all, who wants to keep saying no to everything their child wants, when they know they are being indulged or spoiled by their richer parent?

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The court will look at a number of factors, including:

  • The income or earning capacity of both parents
  • The financial needs of a child
  • The financial resources of a child (for example, do they have a trust fund?)
  • Any physical or mental disabilities of the child
  • The child’s education – was it intended for them to attend private school, or were they doing so before the separation?

A family home

Where to live is often another great worry for mothers when they separate from a wealthier partner. Will you have to move house, or move away from the area where your child is settled and at school?

Again, the courts can and will step in on your behalf if you need them to. They can issue an order for settlement of property – so the wealthier parent will put property into trust for the benefit of the child, giving you and your child somewhere to live. Claims made under Schedule 1 are for the benefit of your child, so the property won’t be transferred to you. By being held on trust it will ultimately revert back to either the paying parent or your child.

Legal fees

In amongst the financial concerns of many mothers is finding the funds to bring a claim against their ex-partner. Courts often order lump sum payments to be made for legal fees to cover your costs and other expenses.

Not having funds to access legal advice shouldn’t get in the way of you making a claim.

Family law is a complex and complicated area, with emotions often running high. But the system is in place to make sure your child does not suffer if you separate from your partner, so if you think you need legal advice please speak to a specialist family lawyer.

Lester Aldridge logoThe Lester Aldridge family team deal with these and other issues on a regular basis and are frequently instructed by clients with disputes relating to the arrangements for their children.

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If you would like to discuss any aspect of divorce, separation or wish to protect your assets prior to getting married, contact the family team on 01202 786161 or email jane.porter@la-law.com

About Lester Aldridge LLP

Lester Aldridge LLP is a nationally recognised law firm with offices in London, Bournemouth and Southampton. The family team are leaders in their field. Jane, Jo and Rosie are specialist family solicitors with a wealth of experience in all areas of family law from divorce to children, prenuptial agreements to the settlement of financial disputes and everything in between. These women are feisty when they need to be. But their approach is designed to reduce conflict in order to ensure the best possible outcome. They recognise that family issues can be extremely emotional and they offer access to specialist advice delivered in a friendly, approachable and understandable way designed to guide you from start to finish. If you would like an informal, no-obligation chat with Jane, Jo or Rosie please telephone 03300 539754.