Children are expensive and often want to attend clubs such as football, brownies, dance, or swimming, and go on school trips. All these things demand a financial contribution from parents, but should someone who is paying child maintenance pay for additional extra-curricular activities and expenses beyond this? This article looks at the issues.
Overall, the basic cost of raising a child from birth to the age of 21 is estimated to be around £221,000. So it is often asked by non-resident parents whether they can be forced by their ex into paying towards other things when they are already paying child maintenance. The short answer to this is generally no. If you are paying child maintenance in accordance with the relevant guidelines, there is no obligation to provide additional financial support. Of course, there are no rules against a non-resident parent making voluntary contributions if they can do so. However, they cannot be forced into it in most cases.
What circumstances can someone be forced to make child maintenance payments?
In some situations, if a non-resident parent is a higher-earner and the parent with care is incurring costs in relation to housing the children, childcare, private school fees or other activities which are not sufficiently covered by child maintenance, it is possible to seek an order under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 for further financial help.
With the growing number of cohabitees, the amount of Schedule 1 cases are increasing dramatically, and are no longer considered to be the purview of the super-rich. However, because the court has such a wide discretion when deciding these cases, the unpredictability of outcome is a real concern for both sides.
What does Schedule 1 of the Children Act give the court power to do?
A parent, special guardian, guardian, or person with care under the terms of a Child Arrangements Order, can apply to the court for financial provision of a child. It is important to note that the claim can only relate to the needs of any children and not the needs of the person with care. The court has the power to make the following orders for the benefit of the child to the parent with care on the child’s behalf or to the child themselves:
- Secured periodical payments
- Periodical payments
- Lump sum orders
- Transfer of property
- Settlement of property
It will also be necessary for each parent to provide the court with detailed information about their financial situation. In addition, the will consider several factors when determining the level of financial provision the child should receive. These include:
- The financial circumstances of each parent, both at present and in the future
- The financial needs of any children
- The income, earning capacity (if applicable), property and other financial resources of the child
- The manner in which the child was being, or was expected to be, trained, or educated
Do I have to pay child maintenance and the mortgage?
If you are paying child maintenance under a Child Maintenance Service (CMS) assessment, you may think that the payments should cover the cost of the mortgage. However, whether you are legally required to do so depends on a number of factors.
If you are not married to your ex and they own the family home in their sole name, then all you are legally entitled to pay is child maintenance. Although, if you are a high-earner as discussed above, your ex may be able to make a claim via Schedule 1 of the Children Act to cover the costs.
If you are married and the family home is in your ex’s sole name, then if the child maintenance payments are not sufficient to cover the mortgage payments, then your ex could apply to the court for spousal maintenance.
If you are paying child maintenance under a CMS assessment but you are also paying the mortgage on the former family home, you can ask the CMS to carry out a special expenses variation to reduce the amount of child maintenance payable. The variation application can only be made if you don’t have any legal or beneficial interest in the property. So if you are a joint owner and jointly and severally liable for the mortgage, you cannot ask for a variation.
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