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What is Schedule 1 Children Act 1989? Your questions answered

Our family law experts explain what Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 is and the implications that it has on financial provisions for children.

With the number of children born to unmarried parents now almost equalling in number those children born into married couples (Office for National Statistics 2020), there is an increasing focus on the financial provision available to those children and parents if the parental relationship comes to an end.

Is child support the only option?

No. Many parents are unaware of the options save for an application to the Child Maintenance Service (“CMS”). If unmarried and not in a civil partnership, parents can obtain limited financial provision under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. Although most reported cases deal with the very wealthy, it is an important issue for all parents to consider.

Here are some issues that every unmarried separated parent needs to consider.

What orders could I apply for?

  • Periodical payments (for yourself on the child’s behalf or to the child themselves)
  • Secured periodical payments (for yourself on the child’s behalf or to the child themselves)
  • Lump sum (for yourself on the child’s behalf or to the child themselves)
  • Settlement of property for the benefit of the child
  • Transfer of property to you on the child’s behalf or to the child themselves.

If the application is brought to the court by a child, they can apply for periodical payments or a lump sum but not a settlement/transfer of property

What does a periodical payments order mean?

The primary jurisdiction for calculating and enforcing payments of child maintenance remains with the CMS. However, the court can make some orders:

  • Top-up orders: If there is a maximum CMS assessment and the non-resident parents’ income exceeds £156,000 gross per annum and the court is satisfied that the circumstances of the case make it appropriate for the payer to pay more than the CMS assessment.
  • School fees/vocational fees: If a child is at school or undergoing training for a trade, profession or vocation and the order is made solely to meet some or all of the expenses incurred in connection with the provision of the instruction or training.
  • Disability: If the child is disabled and the order is made solely for the purposes of meeting some or all of any expenses attributable to the child’s disability.

What does a lump sum order mean?

The court can make one or more lump sum orders. It is usually an order to meet capital expenditure of a singular nature such as furnishing and equipping a home, clothing and baby equipment or provision for a car.

It is not for costs of living.

The lump sum must be for the child’s benefit.

What is a transfer or settlement of property?

The court can order a parent to purchase or transfer a property to the parent with care of the child for as long as it will benefit the child. Once it is no longer needed, it generally reverts back to the payer.  

Who can make the application?

This is usually the parent with care, guardian or special guardian or anyone who is named in a child arrangement order with whom a child is to live. The child must live with the applicant and is a person under the age of 18.

However, a child who has reached the age of 18 may apply in their own right, but only for a lump sum or periodical payments if they are or will be in education or training for a trade, profession or vocation. Or if there are special circumstances which would justify making the order.

How long will an order last?

Periodical payments will usually end on the child’s 17th birthday and not go beyond their 18th birthday unless the child is or will be in education or undergoing training for a trade, vocation or profession or there are special circumstances such as physical or other disability.

An order will usually state that payments terminate when the child is 18 or ceases full time tertiary education. If the payer dies, then the periodical payments stop but an application may be able to be brought under the Inheritance Act for further provision out of the deceased’s estate.

In the case of a transfer or settlement of property, the property is usually returned to the parent who provided it in the same circumstances as periodical payments would end (save for the death of the payer).

How does the court decide what award should be made?

The court will take into consideration all the circumstances which include:

  • The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources a parent has or is likely to have in the future.
  • The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities a parent has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future.
  • The financial needs of the child.
  • The income, earning capacity ( if any), property and other financial resources of the child.
  • Any physical or mental disability of the child.
  • How the child was being or was expected to be educated or trained.

What is the process?

For an overview of the court process, see our guide to the process for claims under Schedule 1 Children Act 1989.

Summary

This is a highly discretionary area of the law and the outcome of each case will depend on the specific set of circumstances. Expert advice is essential.

If you have any questions about the Schedule 1 Children Act, please contact our child law solicitors

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