Child maintenance is financial support that the non-resident parent is expected to provide after a separation from the resident parent, or parent with care. When a relationship ends, co-parenting responsibilities do not – in fact they may require even more attention than before. Children must continue to be raised to the best of both parties’ abilities: fed, clothed, sheltered, educated, prioritised, cared for, and, bluntly put, funded. Seems straightforward enough. But sometimes former partners don’t see eye to eye regarding these matters – sometimes they have differing views about certain trips, sometimes they may not agree on how many toys should be bought – and sometimes, a father feels £70,000 a year is enough for two teenagers’ tuition fees but the mother believes another £60,000 is needed for “extra tuition costs”.
One can only imagine how relieved a wealthy London-based businessman was when Mrs Justice Roberts ruled against the £150,000 per annum claim that his ex-wife put forward for their daughters’out-of-school tutors. At first it sounds like another slightly embittered ploy characteristic of former spouses – a deliberate move to cause another more stress for no good reason. But actually in this case the mum might be absolutely serious, as apparently the parents do have “very divergent” views on the “wisdom and benefit of hot-housing” or advanced schooling. Mother knows best? The High Court doesn’t seem to think so.
The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is run by the Government to calculate and collect child maintenance where parents cannot reach a private arrangement. For high net worth individuals, generally those earning in excess of £3,000 net per week, the court has jurisdiction because the maintenance payable would exceed the statutory amount. The court can make its own decision on child maintenance considering factors based broadly on the Children Act 1989: the income, earning capacity and financial resources of both parties now and in the future, their financial needs and obligations now and in the future, the children’s financial needs and status, the physical or mental abilities of the children, how they reasonably ought to be educated or trained.
Mrs Justice Roberts said that the mother’s proposed costs “are unrealistic in terms of the time available to these children outside their normal school hours”. On a more worrying note she also pointed out that two overly busy teenagers might be missing out on the opportunity to enjoy their youth – to indulge in socialising, to take advantage of normal levels of free time, to live “healthy” lives with schedules that allow them to pause every now and then. It is quite common for families with particular values to place a lot of time and emphasis on their children’s upbringing, but despite all good intentions, parents do need to be reminded to stay selfless, compassionate and rational.