Reported court decisions in claims for financial provision for children under Schedule 1 Children Act 1989 are few and far between and usually concern wealthy fathers and their young children from unmarried relationships. A recent decision of Mr Justice Williams in DN v UD  EWHC 627 (Fam) explores the more unusual question of financial provision for the benefit of older teenaged and adult children.
The mother and father were both born in Russia, met there in 1996 and lived there until the mother moved to London in 2010 with their three children. They never married and the father had other children from other relationships. The father, a significantly wealthy man, provided homes for the mother and their children in Russia and in London. The relationship broke down and the father was found to have been abusive and controlling towards both the mother and the children, causing the children to require therapy. The mother issued proceedings under Schedule 1 for financial provision for the two youngest children, then aged 17 and 12.
The father relied on the “millionaire’s defence”, arguing that it was unnecessary for him to give the usual disclosure of his financial position because he could meet any award made by the court. So, the issue in this case was not whether the father could afford to pay the mother’s claim but whether it was reasonable for him to pay.
As is common in such cases, the court was tasked with deciding what, if any, provision should be made by the father for housing (including furnishings), cars, maintenance for the children (including a carer’s allowance for the mother) and security for outstanding sums. Having accepted the father’s millionaire’s defence, and concluded that the mother was not a “gold digger” but was motivated by concern for her children who were entitled to continue a lifestyle commensurate with their father’s, the court ordered the father to pay £200,000 a year in child maintenance.
The difference in this case is that it was also necessary to consider two specific issues:
whether the father should pay for expenses incurred by the mother in maintaining the eldest (adult) child during his education; and
whether to make capital provision for the two youngest children which would extend beyond their 18th birthdays.
The judge confirmed that the court could not make a financial order in respect of the eldest child, who was over 18 when the proceedings were issued and had not brought a claim himself. However, the judge found that a financial order could be made for the benefit of the two younger children, even though one was over 18 at the date of the final hearing, because they were both minors when the proceedings began.
Schedule 1 Children Act 1989 allows for the possibility that a parent will need to support their child beyond the age of 18 if special circumstances exist. The obvious example is disability. However, following much debate, the judge found that in this case the abuse of the children (and their mother) by the father had created a vulnerability in the children which constituted a special circumstance.
Having ordered that the father maintain the children’s London home under a settlement until six months after the youngest child completed tertiary education, Williams J ordered that each child should be provided with £650,000 for the purchase of a home. He did so because he was concerned that, at the point when the children would lose their London home, the father would exert financial pressure on them to return to Russia and alienate them from their mother.
While very much a decision based on its own facts – and a rare example of a financial order being made to last beyond a child’s minority – this is an interesting illustration of a broad application of the court’s power to order capital provision for the benefit of children. The family and children team at Mills & Reeve have a wealth of experience dealing with Schedule 1 claims. Contact them here for more information about how they can help you and your family.