Three important things you might not know about your legal rights as a cohabiting/non-married parent26 Nov 2019
1. You are not entitled to claim ongoing financial support from your former cohabitee for yourself
Unlike married couples, you are not entitled to claim any financial support or maintenance for yourself from your former cohabitee should you both decide to separate.
However, married or not, most people understand that when you separate from the other parent and the child(ren) remain living with you, the other parent is legally obliged to pay maintenance to you towards the upkeep of those children.
If you and your former cohabitee are unable to reach an agreement between you privately as to what financial support you will receive from them to support any children that you have, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) (which replaced the Child Support Agency) will be able to assess the amount that will need to be paid to you.
2. You may, however, be able to apply for the following…
What you may not be aware of, however, is that if your ex-partner is a high earner or if your children have particular health needs, you may be able to apply through the courts for a:
- ‘top-up’ maintenance order over and above a maximum assessment that has been undertaken by the CMS and which could extend beyond your children’s 18th birthdays;
- ‘periodical payments’ maintenance order for you for the benefit of the children for such a period as can be agreed;
- ‘lump sum payment’ order used to assist with purchasing a house, for example, for you and the children to live in or to purchase other capital (e.g a car or the adaption to the home required for a child with a disability) that is needed for the benefit of the children and their future welfare;
- ‘school fees order’ if your children are being privately educated to ensure that the fees continue to be paid by your former cohabitee once you have separated.
You may also be able to apply to the court for a ‘settlement of property’ i.e. a request that your former partner makes available housing provision for you whilst you are looking after the children. This could be by way of purchasing or transferring a house for you and your children to live in after you have separated, the ownership of which will be transferred back to your ex-partner when the children reach the age of 18, 21 or at the end of their full-time education.
3. Parental responsibility is not granted automatically
Parental responsibility includes all those rights and duties that a parent acquires in order to be able to make important decisions in respect to a child’s life and includes such things as education, health and medical treatment, and religious upbringing.
If you are unmarried and your name is not on the birth certificate of the child, you are not automatically assigned parental responsibility.
If you do not have parental responsibility for your children, your consent/approval does not need to be obtained by your former cohabitee and they can simply go ahead and make all those important decisions that affect their lives without any further reference to you.
If you do not have parental responsibility for your children, your former partner may also change their names without your knowledge and consent.
However, acquiring parental responsibility can be rectified quite simply by entering into an agreement with your ex-partner or, if necessary, by way of a formal application to the court. You can also make sure that your children are provided for by entering into a cohabitation agreement.
To speak to a family law expert about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact us.