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Financial rights of unmarried mothers explained


Separation can be complicated for unmarried mothers when it comes to financial rights and child support.

We will discuss child maintenance, financial support for children, and the family court's role in ensuring fair and just financial assistance. It's important to understand these issues, not just to protect your financial future, but also for the wellbeing and future of your children.

Understanding the legal position of unmarried mothers

Unmarried automatically have parental responsibility for their children. Fathers do not automatically have this responsibility unless they are married to the mother at the time of the child's birth. However, a father can acquire parental responsibility by being registered as the father on the child's birth certificate, with the mother's agreement.

This includes the entitlement to child maintenance and potential financial claims against the child's other parent, even in the absence of a formal union.

Unmarried mothers have a right to make financial claims stemming from their status as an unmarried parent. However, there is a common misconception that unmarried couples share the same rights and responsibilities as married couples when they split. This concept, often referred to as 'common law marriage', is not recognized in UK law.

The law treats parental responsibility and child maintenance as completely separate. An unmarried father who does not have parental responsibility still has a duty to financially support his child.

Calculating maintenance payments

It's important to note that an unmarried father who does not have parental responsibility still has a duty to provide child support maintenance in most cases.

In the UK, the calculation of maintenance payments from a father to an unmarried mother during separation is based on several factors including:

'non-resident' parent's income

This refers to the parent with whom the child does not primarily live. The higher the non-residential parent's income, the more they may be expected to contribute.

Living arrangements

The number of nights the child stays with the non-resident parent is also taken into account. If the child spends a significant amount of time with this parent, the maintenance payments may be adjusted accordingly.

Financial commitments

The daily financial commitments of both parties are considered, as well as any child maintenance obligations. This ensures that both parents can meet their financial responsibilities without undue hardship.

The court may also consider each spouse's financial resources, the length of the relationship, and the needs and resources of both parties.

Financial provision for children

Under the Children Act 1989, unmarried mothers have the right to seek financial provision for their children.

This can include regular child support payments, lump sum payments, or the transfer of property to provide for the child's needs. These provisions ensure that children of unmarried parents are not disadvantaged financially and receive support comparable to that of children from married families. Understanding these provisions and how to access them is essential for securing your child's financial stability.

Child maintenance payments

Child maintenance payments are a crucial aspect of financial support for children of unmarried parents. These payments, typically made by the 'paying parent' to the parent with whom the child resides, are meant to cover the child's everyday living costs.

The amount of maintenance is determined based on several factors, including the paying parent's income and the number of children they support.  If the paying parent fails to make payments, the receiving parent can seek enforcement through the Child Maintenance Service or apply for a court order.

Child maintenance service and its role

The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) plays a crucial role in ensuring that children receive appropriate financial support from their non-resident parents.

For unmarried mothers, the CMS can be a vital resource in establishing and enforcing child maintenance payments.

The service assesses, collects, and transfers payments, ensuring that children's needs are met consistently. It's important to understand how the CMS operates, its calculation methods for maintenance payments, and the enforcement measures it can take against non-compliant parents.

Financial claims by unmarried parents

Unmarried parents, particularly mothers, may have the right to make financial claims on behalf of their children. These claims can extend beyond regular child maintenance and include costs related to housing, education, and other specific needs of the child.

The legal framework allows unmarried parents to seek fair financial contributions from the other parent, ensuring that the child's welfare is not compromised due to the parents' unmarried status.

Family Court and financial rights

The family court has a significant role in adjudicating financial disputes between unmarried parents.

When agreements on financial support cannot be reached amicably, the court can intervene to ensure fair and adequate provisions for the child. The court considers various factors, including the child's needs, parents' income, and overall welfare, to make decisions on financial support.

The impact of parent's income on child support

The income of the paying parent, often the non-resident parent, significantly impacts the amount of child support.

Factors like the parent's earning capacity, property, and other financial resources are considered when determining the maintenance amount.

It's important for unmarried mothers to understand how these factors influence child support calculations to ensure a fair and adequate financial arrangement for their children.

The Legal obligation of non-resident parents

Non-resident parents, often fathers, have legal obligations to provide financial support for their children, irrespective of their marital status with the child's mother.

These obligations are enforced by law and can include regular child maintenance payments and additional financial contributions based on the child's needs. Understanding these obligations is crucial for both parents to ensure that children receive the necessary support for their wellbeing and development.

How can unmarried mothers seek financial support for children?

Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 in the UK allows unmarried parents to obtain financial provision for children.

This is particularly beneficial when the other parent refuses to contribute voluntarily or when there's a disagreement regarding the amount of contribution.

A Schedule 1 claim can be made by a parent, guardian, special guardian, or person who has a residence order in their favor with respect to the child. The respondent to a Schedule 1 Order will typically be the other biological parent.

These claims are designed to ensure that children of unmarried couples are not disadvantaged and receive appropriate financial support. They can cover periodical payments, lump sum payments, and property adjustment orders.

However, the specific circumstances of each case will influence the outcome, and consulting with a legal professional can provide tailored advice.

For advice on financial support following a breakup contact our family team here.

What other financial rights do unmarried mothers have?

Property Rights: If an unmarried mother has significantly contributed to the purchase or upkeep of a property, she may have a claim to a share of it, even if it's in the father's name.

Ownership of Assets: Unmarried mothers might have a claim to certain assets acquired during the relationship, especially if they've made substantial contributions towards them.

Financial Provision from Estate: If the father dies without leaving a will, an unmarried mother may be able to make a claim for financial provision from the deceased parent's estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975

The contents of this article do not constitute legal advice and are provided for general information purposes only. The contents are copyright of Lee Bolton Monier-Williams LLP. All rights reserved.