How can the court assist unmarried couples and families upon relationship breakdown?

Whilst couples and parents sadly going through relationship breakdown always hope that they will resolve any dispute in an amicable way, without having to go through the courts, inevitably there will be some occasions when the court route is unavoidable. 

The financial claims that unmarried couples, and unmarried parents, are able to make through the court upon relationship breakdown are significantly more restrictive than the claims which a married couple, or couple in a civil partnership are able to make. Claims are essentially restricted to property rights and claims on behalf of children of the family. 

What orders can the court make in relation to children?

In summary, under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 the orders the court can make are:

  • Limited periodical payments for child support.  For example, whilst the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is primarily responsible for assessing child support, it is possible to claim “top up” child support via Schedule 1.  This can be claimed when the paying parent’s income exceeds the salary threshold allowed under the CMS statute. 
  • Limited lump sum payments, for example, expenses incurred in relation to the birth of the child or incurred maintaining the child.
  • A payment for education expenses.
  • Costs attributable to a disability.
  • Transfer or settlement of property for the benefit of a child, for example, transferring or purchasing a property for the child and other parent to live in, such property then reverting back to the other party once the child reaches the age of 18 or ceases university education.

What orders can the court make in relation to property?

In summary, under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (referred to as TOLATA) the orders the court can make are:

  • Declaring the nature or extent of a person’s interest in the property.
  • Making an order for sale or postponing of a sale.
  • Regulating the rights of occupation of the property.
  • Partitioning the land.

As with most court proceedings, the costs of going down the court route can be very high. Court proceedings also carry risk. TOLATA proceedings are civil proceedings, not family proceedings, and as such “costs follow the event” which invariably means that the losing party will pay the winning party’s costs.  Even though Schedule 1 proceedings are family proceedings, they are not subject to the same costs rules as, for example, financial remedy in divorce proceedings in that the judge has a higher discretion to award costs to the winning party.

How our family lawyers can help

At Moore Barlow our experienced family team can advise and assist in relation to the above claims and in the case of TOLATA claims, we work closely with our private wealth disputes team

We can also discuss and offer non-court dispute resolution options in the hope that a financial settlement can be reached amicably outside of the court arena.

Explore our family legal services and discover how we can help you