Beautiful portrait of young attractive father with daughter toddler

For unmarried couples, the rights and obligations that arise on the breakdown of their relationship are quite different and far more restricted than those arising on divorce.

There is no such thing as the common law husband or wife.

Where the couple have children together however, not many people realise that the main carer for the children – often but of course not always the mother – can often have an entitlement to financial assistance over and above child maintenance when the relationship breaks down.

This lesser-known entitlement centres on the needs of the child – in the most part their housing needs. The Court can order a property to be purchased for or transferred to the child’s main carer to enable them to provide for the child.

In some cases this entitlement can extend to furnishing the property, meeting income needs, travel, education and perhaps even holidays.

These entitlements derive from Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989.

It’s often possible to deal with these entitlements by agreement and put the necessary provisions in place without needing to resort to a formal application to the court. This helps keep legal costs to a minimum. Where proceedings are necessary and the claim is disputed the Courts are able to determine such claims and put in place the necessary orders so that even an unwilling participant is required to make the necessary provision.

When faced with the choice of pursing such payments or the prospect of having to face a request for such payments being made against you, it is important that you have the right advice from experts in the field with experience of dealing with such applications on both sides – both for the child’s carer and for the person against whom the claim is being made.

Andrew Barton is a partner in the family law team at Stephens Scown in Exeter. To discuss divorce or separation issues contact Andrew, please call 01392 210700 or email