Schedule 1 to The Children Act 1989: What is it all about?

In a social climate which sees fewer and fewer couples deciding to get married, or enter into civil partnerships, the subsequent separation of cohabiting parties is causing increasing difficulty in circumstances where they are simply not afforded the same financial rights on separation as divorcing couples or in the dissolution of partnerships.

Despite considerable pressure from family law solicitors, barristers, and judges, and family law groups such as Resolution, there is still reluctance amongst politicians to change the law in England and Wales so that it recognises the legal rights of cohabiting couples.

For unmarried parents who require financial provision to provide for their children following the end of a relationship with a high net worth (HNW) person, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

Alongside an application for child maintenance to the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), an application for financial provision for the benefit of the child(ren) of the family can be made under Schedule 1 to the Children Act 1989.

What does Schedule 1 to the Children Act 1989 say?

Schedule 1 provides the Court with limited powers to make financial provision available for the benefit of the child(ren) of a relationship, where the parents were not married and have subsequently separated.

Needless to say, Schedule 1 also comes into play in circumstances where a child has been born to a mother, even after a very brief or fleeting relationship with the father.

It is possible to apply for the following orders:

  • Periodical monthly maintenance payments for yourself on the child’s behalf (or to an adult child directly, where applicable);
  • Secured periodical payments for yourself on the child’s behalf (or to an adult child directly, where applicable);
  • Lump sum for yourself on the child’s behalf (or to an adult child directly, if applicable);
  • Settlement of property for the benefit of the child, reverting to the paying party at the end of a specified term; and/or
  • A transfer of property outright to you on the child’s behalf (often held on trust for them) (or to an adult child directly), but this is only likely to happen in very specific and limited circumstances.

Who can make an application under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989?

The Court can make a periodic payment order in respect of:

  • Topping up the CMS maximum assessment amount, if the non-resident parent’s income is greater than £156,000 gross per annum. The Court will need to be satisfied that the circumstances of the case make it fair and reasonable for a top up order to be made;
  • A regular payment for school fees or vocational training; and/or
  • Meeting any reasonably foreseeable recurring expenses associated with the child’s disability (if they have one).

When would a Schedule 1 lump sum order be made?

Lump sum orders can be made by the court for the purposes of enabling liabilities and expenses already incurred in connection with the child to be met. These can even include the costs of their birth in some circumstances, or costs more generally which have been incurred in maintaining the child, even where those expenses were incurred prior to the application (as long as the application is made without unreasonable delay).

Specific future expenses and foreseeable liabilities can also be claimed. Whilst the court’s discretion is wide, the welfare of the child is paramount. Provision might be made, for example, for furniture for a new home purchased for the benefit of the child, a car to transport the child, or indeed a sum to be invested for future school fees. Lump sums are not, however, designed to be maintenance ‘by the back door’ for the resident parent.

How does the Court decide whether an order should be made?

The welfare of the child is a paramount consideration of the court in deciding these cases, and the standard of living enjoyed by both of the parties to the proceedings will also be considered. If, for example, the non-resident paying party is very wealthy and enjoys a luxurious standard of living, incredible accommodation, designer clothes and numerous international holidays each year, the court is likely to want to see the child’s standard of living when they are with the resident parent to be comparable, and will look at their suggested ‘reasonable needs’ in light of this.

The Court will also consider very similar factors to those listed under section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, namely:

  • The child’s financial requirements;
  • Any physical or mental disabilities relating to the child;
  • The current and future income, earning capacity, and financial needs and obligations of the parents;
  • How long the child is expected to be in education or vocational training;
  • The income, earning capacity, and property of the child; and
  • The way the child was being or is expected to be educated.

How long do Schedule 1 orders last?

Unless the child is attending further education or vocational training, or has a disability, periodic payments will usually end when the child turns 18 years. If the paying party dies during the term of payment, the direct payments will of course stop, but whilst an existing order is in place, and if the child remains a dependent of the paying party, an application can be made under the Inheritance Act 1975 for a claim against the deceased’s estate.

If property has been settled or transferred, it will normally be returned to the financially stronger party once the child turns 18 or finishes their secondary education, but will sometimes only revert once the youngest child finishes their tertiary education. If special circumstances apply, such as an adult child with a continuing disability, the term might be even longer still.

Where does this leave us?

Applications for orders under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 are normally extraordinarily complex and require the advice and representation of a family law solicitor experienced in HNW separation.

At a high level, these types of cases tend to involve people in the public eye where privacy is also a significant issue to weigh and manage. It is vital to instruct a law firm that understands the need for strict confidentiality and can manage media enquiries. Edwards Family Law can also support you through private processes of dispute resolution, outside of the more public court proceedings, with processes such as mediation, Early Neutral Evaluation, private FDR hearings, and Arbitration.

To discuss any points mentioned in this article, please contact our office.

Edwards Family Law is a niche London-based firm specialising in high-net-worth divorce and international family law. To find out more about Schedule 1 application, please phone +44 (0)20 3983 1818 or email All enquiries are treated in the strictest confidence.