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As few people in society warrant so much legal protection, it’s no surprise that a lot attention is paid to how the law treats children. An area that is commonly misunderstood, however, is how the law relates to some of the practical aspects of raising a child. In other words, the law as it applies to the economics of raising and being responsible for a child.

At Thorley Stephenson, we are regularly approached by clients, often those experiencing difficulties with a partner, who are anxious to know what impact the law will have on them and any children that they have should that relationship break down. If you find yourself with similar concerns, contact our team to speak to one of our specialist solicitors.

Who has financial responsibility for a child?

There is no denying the economic burden of bringing up a child. The law in Scotland reflects this reality and a child, aged under 16, that is the result of a marriage is the responsibility of both spouses. In other words, you and your husband/wife have a legal duty to bear the financial cost of raising your child.

Where a couple are in a stable relationship, catering for the financial needs of children is usually straightforward. This tends to change when a couple experience challenges in their relationship, where the issue of financial responsibility for children is often ignored until fairly late in the process of trying to resolve differences. This is where some of the practical issues of finance relevant to children can become a challenge.

How are issues regarding child finances resolved?

If you are in a dispute with your spouse, and there is a real likelihood that your relationship may be fundamentally altered or damaged in some way, then there will need to be some consideration of how to share financial responsibility for your child's wellbeing. This is especially so in a number of areas:

  • Child education

In Scotland, parents have a legal duty to support their child financially until they are aged over 25, where that child is “undertaking instruction at an educational establishment, or training for employment or for a trade, profession or vocation”. In deciding to raise a family, the legal obligation to educate your child will remain, regardless as to whether or not you and your spouse are able to maintain your relationship.

  • Child support

The fact that you and your spouse have separated will not make any difference to the cost of raising a child. Indeed, the costs may become more apparent given that it is now clear that (perhaps) two incomes have been supporting a child up until a separation. There will need to be some arrangement put in place to meet the costs of clothing a child, together with contributions to mortgage or rental payments for the property that a child is to live in.

In the course of resolving a family matter, it is encouraged that you come to as much agreement as possible on issues such as child finances. This is sometimes done through what is known as a ‘Voluntary Arrangement’, which is an agreement between you both on how you will share the economic burden of raising your child. It is advisable to involve an experienced family lawyer in the process of documenting the arrangement: they will be able to ensure that the terms of your arrangement are clear and unambiguous; and will be able to advise on whether or not all of a child's interests are addressed.

The situation can become more complex if you and your spouse are unable to come to any agreement on child finances. If contributions cannot be agreed, then it is possible to approach Child Maintenance Service (the CMS) – the successor to the Child Support Agency – and ask for it to calculate the level of support that is due in your circumstances. The CMS is largely responsible for dealing with calculating the finances in respect of children under the age of 18, but only the courts can make arrangements for those children between 18-25 and pursuing further education. Both bodies tend to consider similar criteria in determining the appropriate level of financial support due to care for a child, including:

  • The specific needs and resources of the child concerned;
  • Where appropriate, any attempts made by the child to secure part time work;
  • The resources and other obligations of the parents, with due attention paid to those of a parent providing a home for the child.

In particularly difficult situations where it is impossible to reach an agreement on child finances, it may become necessary to approach the courts in the first instance. This is particularly prevalent when one parent is unwilling to contribute to the costs of raising a child and an action for ailment becomes necessary.

Take expert advice on the law as it applies to child finances

The law attaches particular importance to the organising of finances to provide for children in the event that a couple envisage separation or divorce. If you are considering bringing your relationship with your spouse or partner to an end, it is important that you take the time to explore what finances are needed to continue catering for your child's welfare, and work with experienced advisors to help ensure these are made available.

Family Lawyers Edinburgh, Scotland

Thorley Stephenson is a leading law firm providing comprehensive, practical legal advice to clients. Our specialty family law team are regularly approached by clients to provide guidance and clear legal advice on making arrangements for child maintenance in the event of the breakdown of a relationship. We will be happy to work with you and your spouse to finalise an agreement to protect the interests of your children, and to make your obligations clear. Alternatively, if you are facing difficulties in coming to agreement on financial support, we have a great deal of experience and knowledge of the Scottish courts and will be able to represent your interests in seeking a court order to provide these finances. At Thorley Stephenson, we understand the importance of ensuring the continued care of children in the event of a family breakup and we will work with you to arrange this as quickly as possible. Contact us today.

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