Child Maintenance: Do You Have To Pay?

Year Published: 2016

It has happened to sports stars, rock stars, actors and the average person in the street. One night stands are surprisingly common. It’s estimated that approximately 45% of sexually active adults have had a one night stand. Some of which have resulted in a life changing event – a baby! But did you ever think of the child maintenance you may have to pay?

Who has famously been caught out by unexpected child maintenance claims?

It’s reported that Boris Becker had a fleeting sexual encounter with a Russian model in the broom cupboard of an upmarket London restaurant. This resulted in the birth of his daughter, Anna. He has described this as one of the most expensive one night stands of his life. It resulted in a £2 million settlement plus child maintenance to be paid at £25,000 per month.

Claire Porter, Family Law Associate at SAS Daniels, Chester

Claire Porter, Family Law Associate

Apparently Jude Law met a US model in a New York City nightclub. Nine months after a baby girl was born. He has been supporting her financially ever since.

Christiano Ronaldo had a one night stand with a British waitress whilst in the US. She preferred not the keep the baby boy and Christiano is now raising him as a single father. It is believed that the mother accepted a pay-out of many millions.

These are the cases we’ve read about in the media. Do you know what your legal position would be if the unexpected happened to you?

The law in England and Wales?

Even if a child is conceived as the result of a ‘one-night-stand’, the father has a financial liability to support that child until they are 18 years of age. You may want to consider paternity testing by way of a DNA test to prove paternity.

The mother is able to make an application to the Child Maintenance Service for maintenance for the child. She can also make an application for “top-up” maintenance under the provisions of Schedule 1 Children Act 1989. The court’s power to order top-up maintenance is only applicable where the Child Maintenance Service has assessed that the father’s income exceeds the maximum maintenance assessment of £3,000 gross per week.

Following an application and exchange of financial disclosure, the court can make an order in favour of a mother.

What can a court order cover?

  • Unsecured or secured periodical payments – these are regular payments (usually monthly) to be paid for the benefit of the child and to enable the child to be supported. Periodical payment orders will typically end on a child’s 17th birthday. However, the court can extend such an order until the child’s 18th birthday or further still if the child remains in education, training or there are special circumstances;
  • A lump sum order – this would be to pay for a particular item such as a house for the child to live in or other items, such as a computer;
  • A transfer or settlement of property order – this is when a property is either transferred directly to a child or to the parent. A property can also be put into a Trust for the child. It is important to note that orders in relation to property transfers or settlements will usually only last until the child becomes an adult or completes their full time education. At this point the property would revert back to the father.
  • When considering whether or not to make an order, the court has to review all of the circumstances of the case. This includes the criteria set out in section 15 Schedule 1 Children Act 1989. Criteria include the income, earning capacity, property and financial responsibilities of any parent. They also cover the needs of the child including, their accommodation, education, day to day living costs and any physical or mental needs.

Recent examples of the law

The case of Re P (Child: Financial Provision) (2003) set a precedent that a child is entitled to be brought up in a standard of living equal to that of the non-resident parent. This was reiterated in the case of MT v OT (2007). Mr Justice Charles stated that in cases involving wealthy parties, the parties should have broadly comparable homes.

Re P prescribed that the court will first consider a home for the child; usually on the basis that the home will revert to the father when the child reaches their majority. They will then consider the appropriate lump sum required to furnish and equip the home and the cost of a family car, before considering the budget the mother requires to maintain the home and meet other external expenses.

The general rule for Children Act 1989 applications is that there is no order as to costs. Meaning that each party is liable to pay their own legal costs. However, this does not apply to Schedule 1 proceedings when there is a chance the court could order one party to pay the other’s legal costs.

This area of law is often complex and specialist legal advice ought to be obtained at the outset.

For more information or advice on child maintenance, please contact Claire Porter in our Family Law team on 01244 305926.

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