My ex and I are unmarried: can I claim financial assistance for our child?

It is a common misconception that unmarried couples in long-term relationships have the same legal rights as married couples. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as ‘common law marriage’, which often means some couples find themselves in difficult financial situations if they separate.

If you and your ex are unmarried you do not have any legal obligations towards each other, which means if you separate, you would not be able to claim maintenance from your ex-partner for yourself.

Many people also consider that having a child together provides them with legal rights regardless of whether or not they are married. While this is not the case, financial assistance may be available for the benefit of children of unmarried parents who separate.

While you cannot claim maintenance from your ex-partner for yourself, you may be able to claim maintenance on your child’s behalf. The amount of child maintenance payable can be worked out using the Child Maintenance Service calculator, which considers a number of factors including the paying parent’s income, the number of children living with the receiving parent, how many children the paying parent supports, and how often the children spend overnight with the paying parent. You can arrange child maintenance payments and agree the amount between you directly. If this is not possible the Child Maintenance Service can assist you.

Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 is also available to those who have children and require financial support from the other parent to meet their children’s needs. The court can make Orders under this Act which can include regular payments that are not dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service, which will usually end when the child is no longer a minor.

The court can order ‘top up’ maintenance orders, where the paying parent’s income exceeds the maximum Child Maintenance Service assessment, as well as payment of school fees or expenses if the child is disabled.

You could also claim lump sums to cover your child’s capital needs, such as home equipment or furniture, a car for transport, clothing etc, in addition to claims for property which may require a parent to purchase or transfer property to the resident parent to house the children. Sometimes, this is held in trust for a specified length of time, which will usually revert back to the paying parent when the child is no longer a minor.

All orders are solely for the benefit of children, and the court will assess your child’s needs as well as the finances and responsibilities of both parents before making a decision.

If you need help with any of the issues mentioned, visit the EJ Coombs website or email

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