Periodical financial support: what happens if my child has a disability?
Being a single parent can be stressful, particularly when it comes to managing the family finances. When a child has a disability, the additional worry of what will happen to child maintenance payments when that child legally becomes an adult can result in many sleepless nights.
The purpose of the Child Maintenance Service
Both parents have a legal responsibility to financially provide for their child. The Child Maintenance Service is a government-run organisation whose purpose is to organise and collect child maintenance from the parent who is not living with the child and pay this money to the resident parent (if necessary).
The Child Maintenance Service is only able to enforce payments for children under 16 years old, or under 20 and in approved education. Once a child reaches this age, arranging and collecting child maintenance payments does not fall within its remit.
Could I apply to court for additional child maintenance payments after my disabled child is no longer covered by the Child Maintenance Service?
The Children Act 1989 gives the courts limited powers to order a parent (or in some circumstances both parents) to pay either regular payments or a lump sum for a child. These powers are detailed under Schedule 1 of the Act.
A number of circumstances may justify a claim under Schedule 1 of the Act, for example if a parent is likely to be responsible for full-time care of a disabled child for the rest of their life.
While in theory the child could apply for a financial order of this nature themselves, due to the nature of a disability which would justify a claim under Schedule 1, it is likely that a parent will act on their behalf.
As part of this process, the court will want to have a full understanding of both parents’ finances and the costs involved in the child’s care, so that it can decide on a reasonable financial order. This means that both parents will have to disclose details of both their income and assets.
Making a claim under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 can be a highly complex process and an unsuccessful application could result in the applicant facing a costs order against them. As such, it is highly recommended that anyone considering a claim of this nature seeks legal advice as soon as possible.