Client Affairs

Survey Raises Worries Over Unmarried Couples' Assumptions On Children's Financial Support

Julia Reinholdsson, 17 July 2015

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A survey seeks to cast light on the views that unmarried and married couples have about the financial consequences of separation for their for children.

According to a new study, nearly half of UK citizens mistakenly believe that unmarried couples have the same financial rights in regards to their children as their married counterparts do. This misconception has highlighted the urgent need to process the appropriate legislation through parliament, UK-based law firm Seddons has said.

Some 47 per cent of the adults surveyed thought, wrongly, that there was no difference between unmarried and married couples when it comes to the rights they have to seek additional financial support for any children they have together, the survey found.

Only 27 per cent of respondents believed that unmarried couples possessed some of the same rights as married couples when it came to child-related financial settlement separate from any required mandatory maintenance payments. Whereas 8 per cent had the misperception that unmarried couples have none of the same rights as married couples in such situations.

“These insights shine a stark spotlight on the widespread confusion and misperceptions which exist in terms of the rights of unmarried parents regarding child-related financial settlements. It also appears that the single avenue which does exist – Schedule 1 claims – is widely underutilised, as shown in the data we’ve unearthed,” said the head of family at Seddons, Deborah Jeff.

The legislation states that the only way for cohabiting parents who are separating, without ever being married, to seek financial support for a child is under the Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. Requested statistics from the Ministry of Justice by Seddons indicated that few couples used that opportunity.

In 2014 only 141 such awards were recorded under Schedule 1 by the Central Family Court (formerly the Principal Registry), which handles the vast majority of such claims in the London area. It is a disproportionate number when considering the overall number of unmarried parents, both opposite- and same-sex, with dependent children in the UK was nearly 2.1 million as of 2014 according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, the report said.

This situation, Seddons said, demonstrates the urgent need for legal reform and clarification of these rights, particularly because of the increasing trend of cohabiting yet unmarried families in the UK, which grew by almost 30 per cent over the last decade, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics.

The Co-Habitation Rights bill has now been reintroduced in the House of Lords after being abandoned in the last parliament. The legislation concerns the rights of unmarried parents for these types of financial settlements and should be amongst the key priorities of the new Conservative government, Seddons advised.

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