Unmarried parents - legal rights (Part two) - Family Law Partners

Unmarried parents – legal rights (Part two)

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47.6% of children born in the UK in 2016 were born outside marriage or civil partnership (Office for National Statistics statistical bulletin 19th July 2017), yet many unmarried parents do not understand the implication that this has on their legal relationship with their child or their financial obligations.

In part one of this blog post we looked at the issue of who has parental responsibility when two parents live together but aren’t married. In part two here, we explain your financial obligations.

Financial obligations for unmarried parents

If you are unmarried and separating there is no law which provides for maintenance to be paid between the ex-partners or redistribution of assets. However, both parents have a financial obligation towards their child.

Child maintenance

A parent who does not live with the child has a legal obligation to pay child maintenance for the benefit of the child to the parent who does. There is a calculation used by the Child Maintenance Service to calculate the amount that should be paid, which is complicated. We have developed our own child maintenance calculator which will carry out the calculation for you, based on the rules introduced by the Child Maintenance Service.

Access the child maintenance calculator tool here:


Most parents use the calculator as the basis of a voluntary agreement, known as a family based arrangement. There is no obligation to pay any costs over and above the CMS formula, but the parents often agree to share costs such as extra curricular activities and school uniform as part of their agreements, in addition to child maintenance.

If parents cannot reach a family based arrangement about the payment of child maintenance, the parent living with the child can make an application to the CMS who can assess and collect the child maintenance payments from the parent who is not living with the child.

There are charges for using the Child Maintenance Service which include: –

  • £20 application fee
  • 20% collection fee for the paying parent on top of their usual child maintenance for using the Collect & Pay service
  • 4% collection fee deducted from the usual child maintenance for receiving parents using the Collect & Pay service
  • A range of enforcement charges for paying parents who don’t pay their child maintenance in full and on time.

The CMS scheme only operates on a non-resident parent’s gross income up to £3,000 per week.

If a non-resident parent earns more than £3,000 gross per week then the resident parent can apply to the court for additional child maintenance payments under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. The court also retains jurisdiction to make an order for child maintenance in respect of educational expenses and expenses relating to the child’s disability.

Other financial claims for children

Under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 the court can also order that one parent: –

  • Pays a lump sum to the other for the benefit of the child, for example to reimburse expenses related to the birth, expenses such as the cost of a family car or school fees. There is no limit to the number of applications that can be made for lump sum order.
  • Transfer a property or purchase a property on trust for the other parent for a set period of time, usually until the child reaches the age of 18 or completes full time secondary or university education. The property would then revert back to the payer.

For more information, see our factsheet on financial arrangements for children here.

This blog was originally written by Lauren Guy. For a consultation with a member of our specialist family law team please contact us.

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