There are some Financial Orders that can be made under the Children Act 1989, but these are infrequently used. Within divorce proceedings there are different provisions which, for example, would enable a party to a marriage to apply to the divorce Court for a Maintenance Order from the other party in respect of a step-child. The merits of that application would be considered on the facts of the particular case, and the Court would no doubt wish to consider whether there was good reason why the burden of providing support should fall on the step-parent rather than the two natural parents.
The involvement of the Court has been much reduced by the Child Support Act 1991 (CSA 1991), which deals with the obligations of parents to provide maintenance for their natural children. Although the CSA 1991 and supporting regulations are extremely complex, a simple summary is as follows:
- If the parents are in full agreement over the terms of any child maintenance arrangement, then that agreement can be converted into a Court Order
- If the parents are not in full agreement over the child maintenance arrangements, then the parent with whom the child resides must either simply accept what the other parent is prepared to pay or refer the issue to the Child Maintenance Service
The Court does have powers under Schedule I of the Children Act 1989, relating primarily to the provision of a home for children of unmarried parents. If these powers appear to be relevant, we will discuss them with you in more detail.
The operation of the CSA 1991 can be complex. Detailed information can be obtained here.
The detail above relates to Private Law issues arising between parents and step-parents of children. They do not relate to Public Law Child Care proceedings involving Social Services and other parties. Entirely different provisions relate to such matters, and will be discussed separately if they arise.
The Essex Family Courts have issued guidelines which give information as to the sort of things a Court will be looking for in any Court application relating to the arrangements for children. A copy of this PDF can be downloaded by clicking here.