Maintenance and lone parents
Spouses and partners
If you are or have been married or in a civil partnership, you are entitled to apply to the court for maintenance from your spouse/civil partner to cover your own expenses. If you are in a cohabiting relationship, you have no such right.
If the cohabiting relationship subsequently breaks down you may not apply to the court for maintenance for yourself, unless you satisfy the eligibility criteria for the redress scheme for cohabiting couples. You will have to show that you were/are financially dependent on your partner.
Married couples and civil partners are legally obliged to maintain their dependent children in accordance with their means. Their maintenance responsibilities following a judicial separation, divorce or dissolution are determined by the courts.
If you have had a child outside of marriage and cannot come to an agreement about maintenance, you may apply to the court to order the other parent to pay child support. In most cases, it is the parent with main custody of the child that makes such an application.
If the court decides that the parent of a dependent child has failed to provide such maintenance for the child as "is proper in the circumstances", it may order that parent to make regular maintenance payments to support the child. The court may also order a parent to pay a lump sum.
The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 has amended the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act 1976 so that a cohabitant who is a guardian of:
- Their partner’s child or
- The child their partner has the day-to-day care of
has a financial responsibility to the child. It allows for a court to order the cohabitant to pay maintenance to support a dependent child who is under 18 years of age.
A dependent child is a child who:
- Is under 18 years old or
- Is over 18 and under 23 years old but is still in full-time education or
- Is suffering from mental or physical disability to the extent that he or she cannot maintain himself or herself.
When the court is deciding whether to make a maintenance order in respect of a child, it will consider the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources of both parties. It will also consider whether either party has other financial responsibilities such as a spouse or other dependent children.
The children of parents who are not married to each other may have to prove paternity in order to get their maintenance or inheritance entitlements. This is not necessary if the father acknowledges paternity or is named as the child's father on the child’s birth certificate.