05th Jun 2023

Why Does No-one Make Claims Under Schedule 1?

By James Pirrie

Why Does No-one Make Claims Under Schedule 1?

 

FLiP Director James Pirrie offers his thoughts on why there are so few claims made under Schedule 1 of the Children Act despite more unmarried couples having children.

In 2021, around half (370,713) of all births were to mothers who were not married or in a civil partnership at the time of the birth. Sadly, given the statistics on the separation of unmarried couples, it is reasonable to suppose that around 50% of those children will experience the separation of their parents before they are 16.

Government estimates that there are now around 3.5m children whose parents do not live together across 2.4 million separated-family units.

The CMS (Child Maintenance Service) of course famously seeks to dissuade these families from making use of their services, fiercely promoting the benefits of self-regulation and providing the formula and a calculator for parents to work out the numbers themselves. Even so, it takes in 70,000 applications in a quiet year (2020) and 120,000 in a busy one (2022).

Meanwhile and despite encouragement from the court to manage parenting issues directly or with the help of a mediator, there were still 83,000 applications concerning parenting issues in 2022.

Section 15 and Schedule 1 of the Children Act give the court power to make provision to help with:

  • housing;
  • educational costs;
  • money for all the other one-off things that a child might need;
  • or to top up where the CMS maximum is reached (those people earning over £3,000 a week gross);
  • Goodness! the court may even order a well-resourced parent to fund the legal costs the other parent faces in bringing the case against them.

Research has shown that possibly the greatest threat to the wellbeing of a child is poverty – so against this backdrop what percentage of that population is making these claims, to maximise the change of their child’s wellbeing?  Half of them? Higher? Lower?

Family Court Statistics gave us the answer in April 2023:

“in 2022, there were 268 schedule 1 applications concerning 417 children”

(and this was a pretty significant step down from the 650 cases of 2015).

All the way back in 2009, fellow-family-lawyer Charlotte Bradley from Kingsley Napley and I thought we would try to build confidence and competence among advising family lawyers by producing a guide that would bring together what we knew about this area of family law. The early edition had our colleague Andrew Greensmith (now District Judge Greensmith) and the recent edition pulls in help from a whole range of people including barristers, a conveyancer, an accountant and the foreword from Mr Justice Cobb.  We have grown from a rather pinched 200 pages to a glorious (thanks to our style guru, Rachel Hathaway) 600 pages of fully searchable, bookmarked blood, sweat and tears. This edition is dedicated to Sir Nicholas Mostyn, who will be retiring shortly.

We are truly hoping for purchases from our fellow professionals (£30 for individuals and £100 for a firm) with all monies raised going to one or more of three charities:

  • The Hampton Trust
  • National Association of Child Contact Centres; and
  • Cure Parkinson’s.

By the time our wonderful friends at Family Court Statistics report next Spring, may we also hope that we have helped a few more cases into being (or more particularly helped advisers to have the confidence to help their clients settle those cases really early on) giving a few more children the financial leg-up they need through their early years.

How To Buy The Book

The book is available for download in exchange for a donation to one of our chosen charities, The Hampton Trust, NACCC and Cure Parkinson’s. The suggested donation is: £100 for firms/teams; £30 for individuals. Once you have made your donation, please email Matilda Pigneguy at FLiP (mp@flip.co.uk) to receive a downloadable copy of the book.