Posted by Sophie Webb, Trainee Solicitor
The rise of the over-50s divorce and how to financially support grown-up children
Divorce rates in couples over the age of 50 are growing faster than any other age group. With many of these couples having children over the age of 18, what are the options for financial child support?
A recent article on so-called ‘silver divorces’ reported that 8 out of 10 divorcees over the age of 45 have children, with 1 in 8 divorcees blaming ‘empty-nest syndrome’ for their split.
Financial support for children, or child maintenance, is always a big consideration for parents who are going through a divorce. Often, the rate of this maintenance is agreed between the parents or by using a calculation specially formulated by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).
However, in the past, CMS payments would end when the youngest child reached either the age of 16, or 18 if they continued into secondary education. Yet many ‘silver divorcees’ have children over this age.
What financial support options are there for divorcees who have children over the age of 18?
Firstly, the Child Maintenance Service, which replaced the Child Support Agency, now runs a scheme which provides for maintenance to be paid until the child reaches the age of 20. The child has to still be in full time secondary education.
The CMS does not, however, provide for children who are older than 20 or for children over the age of 16 who are no longer in secondary education. In these circumstances, the options for continuing financial support are more limited.
If an agreement cannot be reached between the parents, the main way of trying to secure financial support is to make an application to the Courts (using Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989).
There are two main types of applications which can be made in these circumstances; for periodical payments (regular maintenance), or for a lump sum of money.
Applications for periodical payments can only be made for educational purposes or in ‘special circumstances’. These terms are not defined, but case law has shed some light on what they mean. Educational purposes will most likely cover university education. Special circumstances cover things such as a disability of the child; it does not mean the extreme wealth of one parent in comparison to the other.
Periodical payments cannot be ‘renewed’. This means that, if maintenance payments had been paid under the terms of a Court Order, or through the CMS, the Court cannot generally extend those payments once they have stopped.
Applications for a lump sum of money have slightly fewer restrictions. They are not restricted to educational purposes and special circumstances. Often, this will be used to cover a child’s housing needs. However, a Court still has to consider a large number of factors before making a decision.
With the ever increasing rate of divorce among those over the age of 45 with children over age 16 and 18, applications under Schedule 1 may become far more widespread. These applications are complicated, but our expert family and divorce lawyers can guide you through all of your options to provide for the needs of your child – whatever their age.
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