Have you heard the one about the WAG who had a baby by a Premiership footballer, then claimed millions from him for a housing fund to buy a luxury flat in Chelsea plus huge sums in annual child support?
Such tabloid stories are the visible side of financial provision cases for children whose parents aren’t married but they don’t do justice to the impressive arsenal of powers that can be wielded by the court under Schedule 1 of the Children Act.
The number of children
being brought up by unmarried parents has increased by more than a quarter
since 2009 to make up 16 % of the total of families with dependent
children. Married or civil partnership
couples still make up the majority of families at 61 % but the trend is only
going one way. (And it’s not down the
aisle at the church).
So it’s surprising
then that family practitioners don’t perhaps see more Schedule 1 cases.
Whilst the powers of
the court under Schedule 1 don’t quite match the powers of the divorce court,
they are comprehensive. Most separating couples will be aware that they can
claim maintenance for the child via the Child Maintenance Service (formerly the
dreaded Child Support Agency). But they
don’t know they can also ask the court for a lump sum or transfer and
settlement of property. The court can
also top up maintenance over and above the CMS assessment for high earners and order
the payment of school fees or other special costs.
The housing fund power
won’t provide the parent with care of the child with a home for life, but it
will secure accommodation for them during the child’s minority, provided of
course that the absent parent can afford it.
The fund simply reverts back to them when the child no longer needs that
support. And if the absent parent is tempted
to plead poverty – beware. The court has
been known to order payment of a housing fund to provide for the child with the
effect of compelling the absent parent to sell their own home (although they do
get the money back at the end of the term).
It’s not quite
divorce-lite. But for parents with small
children who have separated and can’t rehouse themselves, it can be a
It’s a pity then that awareness
of Schedule 1 is so low. That is why I
support the Resolution campaign #ABetterWay.