Avoid the chaos of a cohabiting split
When unmarried parents separate, things can get complicated for everyone - family law expert, Patricia Robinson, advises on how to make it a little less messy
Unmarried parents are not always aware of what rights, responsibilities and obligations they each have to one another and their children.
The misconception of the “common-law spouse” is still prevalent, despite many family lawyers’ attempts to raise public awareness on this issue over the last decade. Unmarried couples, when separating, may find they are left in a very vulnerable financial position.
Where possible, parents should try to agree between them what is the most appropriate day-to-day arrangement for their children. Some families, when the parents start living separately, focus on sharing weekends and holidays with a base with one parent during the week. Other parents alternate care on a weekly basis. There is no one pattern that fits all as it is about working out an arrangement that is child-focused and works well for your family. If an agreement cannot be reached
then do not underestimate the help of a specialist family solicitor who is experienced in reaching resolutions in these circumstances. The court process is also available but should be seen as a last resort.
Although financial claims between separating cohabitants are extremely limited in contrast to those of married couples, where there are children there are financial obligations on the part of the parents. Child maintenance is the most obvious of these but in certain circumstances, particularly where one parent is wealthy, their financial responsibilities can extend beyond this. If the paying parent has an income above £3,000 gross per week, this would open the gateway to top-up child maintenance through the courts.
Also, if the paying parent has significant wealth, it may be appropriate for them to provide a home for both the child and the other parent to live in until the child has reached adulthood. Although not an exhaustive list, they can also be required to make lump sum payments towards furnishing the property, a car, the child’s education and holidays.
Whether you’re the paying parent or the one receiving on a child’s behalf, it is imperative that you obtain legal advice so you are fully aware of the extent of your claims and/or responsibilities.
Patricia Robinson From Slater Heelis