10 top tips for single parents seeking to get financial support from another parent

Rhiannon Lloyd, Barrister at 4PB gives the 10 top tips for single parents seeking to get financial support from another parent.

 10 top tips for single parents seeking to get financial support from another parent

10 top tips for single parents seeking to get financial support from another parent.


1. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that being with someone a long time means you get the same rights as married people and a property division/maintenance system that goes with it. Common law marriage is a myth. Sadly, in these cases, ownership of property is determined on far narrower principles than if you were married (where the existence of children and their needs is highly relevant).


2. Not to fear: there are ways of securing capital and maintenance support from the other parent. Usually it will mean an application to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) provided the parent who will be paying is resident in the UK


3. A parent may deny parentage when contacted by the CMS. If a calculation has already been made, they must continue to pay until they can provide evidence that they are not the parent of the child. If a calculation has not been made then they must provide evidence, and arrears will accrue that they will have to pay once the CMS determines they are the parent. The CMS has many ways of establishing parentage that do not involve a DNA test, and the refusal of a parent to submit to one is also strong relevant evidence in itself. They will ‘presume parentage’ when a parent’s name is on the child’s birth certificate or they were married to the mother between conception and birth, or for example they have been judged by a court to be a parent because there is a child arrangements order. The onus is on the person saying ‘it wasn’t me’ to prove it.


4. Initially you will have a ‘gateway conversation’ with the CMS before you can submit a claim. Different types of income can be taken into account, not just earned income from a job but ‘unearned income’. So, think: do they have investments that earn interest or dividends, rental income from a property they own? Mention this during the initial conversation and in any subsequent application so that CMS don’t simply focus on narrow employed income. 


You can make an ‘additional income variation’ application. Be specific and give as much information as you can. Are they claiming poverty? They may try to divert income by saying their salary is actually repayment of a director’s loan for example. This may qualify as a ‘diverted income variation’. Play detective - what car do they drive? What evidence can you obtain of a high standard of living? This may all assist in providing a more complete picture if someone is being dishonest about their means.


5. Maintenance via the CMS is payable until a child is 16 or 20 and in full time education to A-level equivalent. If maintenance is required beyond that, then it may be possible to make an application to the court under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989, say if the child is going on to university, but the application must be made by the parent before the child turns 18.


6. If you operate a truly shared care agreement where the children spend equal time with each of you, then the CMS may not deal with your case (unless only one of you is receiving child benefit). However, one parent may need support particularly if the child is living in disparate standards of living between the two homes: in this situation, you can apply to the court for maintenance as below.


7. In most cases, child maintenance will begin and end with the CMS calculation. However, if the paying party earns more than £3,000 per week gross, then once you have obtained a maximum assessment from CMS, you can then apply to court for a ‘top up’. The court can also assist where a parent is not resident within the UK.


8. If the other parent is wealthy, then it may be possible to get capital provision for housing, education, or even a car under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. The purpose of the payments made cannot be to benefit the parent, though if that is a side benefit then that is permissible e.g. a parent may be ordered to make funds available to purchase a home that will remain in that parent’s name but revert to the child when they are 18. Though the resident parent will not own it, they can live in it. It is possible for an applicant’s legal costs to be funded by the paying party also; so that the parent’s lack of means is not a barrier to accessing support for the child.


9. Where an application to a court is being considered, good legal advice is essential to assess the merits of any claim and consider a cost benefit analysis. An initial meeting with a solicitor or direct access barrister specialising in this area of law may be a cost effective investment to see whether it is worth pursuing.


10. In all cases, the first port of call should be dialogue with the other parent. If that is not fruitful and an application to the court becomes likely, then there are many alternative forms of dispute resolution which are more efficient and cost effective than court. Mediation, arbitration, early neutral evaluation, are all forums for resolving these issues without applying to court: which should be seen as a last resort.


By Rhiannon Lloyd, Barrister at 4PB


[Disclaimer: This information is provided by Rhiannon Lloyd, Barrister at 4PB. Parent Time Ltd does not provide legal advice, we whilst we aim to be helpful, Parent Time takes no liability for this content. If you need legal advice and help, make sure you contact a trained professional directly to make your informed decisions. ]