If unmarried expat couples with kids separate

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Financial Provision for children of unmarried international couples

When unmarried parents separate, the parent with whom the child lives may make a financial claim against the other for financial provision for the benefit of their child. This is possible even if one parent lives abroad providing there is a connection with England and Wales. This article identifies what can be achieved if you find yourself in this situation.  The law is found in Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989.

Points to bear in mind:

  • If you wish to make a claim against a parent who resides abroad, ensure you have sufficient connection, (known as ‘Jurisdiction’) with England and Wales;
  • If you are living abroad and you pay no or inadequate child maintenance to the parent looking after your child, you could find yourself on the receiving end of an application for maintenance;
  • If there are already English court proceedings about the child (child arrangement orders) it is relatively straightforward to ‘hook on’ a claim under Schedule 1 but there are exceptions to these applications and legal advice must first be sought.

Financial provision available to an unmarried parent though the courts is far more limited than provision made to a party who was married. Nonetheless, depending on the assets, substantial provision can be made available to a parent for the benefit of a child. The legislation is not designed for personal benefit but only as a parent.

The main awards that can be made by the Court include the following, although not conclusive.

  1. A Property Transfer/Settlement Order. A Court can order one parent to provide a home for the child (and the parent with whom the child primarily resides) but the property is often not transferred to the resident parent outright. The home is usually held on trust until such time as the youngest child concludes their full time education. Once this happens, the property will usually revert back to the parent who provided the property or go to the child. The Court can only make one transfer or settlement of property order even if the housing needs of the child change in the future.
  2. Lump Sums. The Court can order the payment of lump sums during a child’s minority for specific items of expenditure for the child. These can include educational requirements, items needed for the child in the home, furnishing and refurbishing payments, a car fund, musical instruments or to clear debts that need to be met which would otherwise impact on the child’s future or to cover monies already spent for a child.
  3. Periodical Payments Order. This is monthly child maintenance and it can only be ordered by the English Court when either parent is resident abroad unless by agreement. They tend to last until a child concludes their secondary education but can also be extended to cover university education. The maintenance payment includes a “carer’s allowance” for the parent looking after the child.
  4. School Fees Order. The Court can make school fees orders covering a child’s education up until the end of first decree level. This is in addition to the child maintenance payable as set out above.

In making such orders, the court will consider the following factors:

  1. The income, earning capacity and assets of the parents both now and in the future;
  2. The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each parent has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
  3. The financial needs of the child;
  4. Any physical or mental disability of the child;
  5. The manner in which the child was being or was being expected to be educated.

This is a complex area of the law so do seek legal advice if you are considering making this type of application or if you have received court paperwork notifying you that an application has been made against you.  Early advice is very important as any steps taken without proper consideration may have a detrimental impact on your case.

If you need any advice on this type of issue please contact Lucy Loizou on lucy.loizou@iflg.uk.com or David Hodson on david.hodson@iflg.uk.com or speak to any of our lawyers by visiting www.iflg.uk.com.

The contents of this article are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. Legal advice should always be sought for your specific circumstance.

Sponsored article from The International Family Law Group

Lucy Loizou
The International Family Law Group LLP

© November 2017

The International Family Law Group LLP is a specialist law firm, based in London, looking after international and national families. iFLG handles a plethora of financial and forum matters linked to a relationship breakdown and matters relating to children (child relocation, abduction, adoption, surrogacy, contact and residence issues). As accredited international family law specialists iFLG regularly receives instructions from foreign lawyers concerning matters in England and Wales. iFLG is also regularly instructed by ICACU (Central Authority for England and Wales) and we also provide expert evidence abroad in family cases.

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