child maintenance for autistic child uk

When a couple with children separate, it can be difficult to know where to start with unravelling joint family life. The Family Court made a decision some years ago that children and finance matters should be kept separate and, while there are plenty of good reasons why this decision was made, it is often difficult to see how the two can be divided when they are so inextricably linked in every day life.


If children matters are contested, and there are a wide range of possible arrangements for residence and contact with the children, then it is generally considered best practice to resolve children matters first. There are a number of reasons for this, not least because the welfare of the children is always considered to be the first priority and implementing a stable routine as soon as possible is generally considered in the best interests of the children. The final decision regarding children will also have a significant impact on the way financial matters are resolved – for example:


Housing needs – The Court will take into consideration the children and who they are to reside with when deciding what each party reasonably needs in terms of accommodation. If the parent with whom the children live is still in the family home, and the house is a reasonable size and value in the circumstances, then a Court will endeavour to keep the children in the family home where possible. Even where this is not possible, the Court will give priority to housing the children – and therefore arguably the resident parent – and will want to see that they are in a property big enough and close enough to their current school.


Income – When the Court considers what would be a fair division of the assets, they will need to have full financial disclosure about each party’s income. When there are children involved, there are a number of sources of income that will vary depending on which parent the children are due to live with – for example:

• Child maintenance
• Child benefit
• Child tax credit element of working tax credits

It is therefore important to ascertain who the children are to live with and how much time the children are to spend with the non-resident parent before progressing financial matters, as this will potentially have an impact on the respective parties’ income positions.


Expenditure – Perhaps most obviously for a parent, the children arrangements will have an impact on each party’s expenditure. Again, when considering financial matters, the Court will want a thorough breakdown of each party’s outgoings, in order to ascertain the affordability of various options. The parent who the children live with will generally meet the majority of the expenditure for the children – from food, to school uniform, to birthday presents for their friends. As such, it is important that children issues are resolved for the most part before financial matters are negotiated.


Each family is different and there is no one right way of going about the divorce process or resolving the related issues. The Court will want to see first and foremost that the children are in a safe and happy home, however, and it is important to seek legal advice as early as possible to ensure that a decision in respect of the children doesn’t prejudice the resolution of financial matters, or vice versa.


Harriet Wigmore is a solicitor in the family team in Exeter. Our family law team has been ranked as the best in Devon and Cornwall by Chambers and The Legal 500, the two leading independent legal guides. If you would like to discuss chilren and finance upon divorce or any other family law issue Harriet can be contacted on 01392 210700, by email