Couples with children are financially responsible for their children, whether or not they live together. However, the financial consequences of having children are different depending on whether or not the couple are married. An unmarried parent looking after a child can apply to the CSA for child maintenance and to the court for broader financial support on behalf of the child, not only for 'top-up' maintenance payments where the other parent's income is high, but also for capital lump sums for the child's needs or for an order that property be purchased or transferred for the benefit of the child. Recent cases have seen some significant awards being made to provide support for children, particularly in circumstances where a wealthy parent has relatively limited income against which a standard maintenance calculation can be made. The main difference for unmarried parents is that they cannot obtain maintenance for themselves and that any property provided for the child will return to the paying parent at the end of the child's minority.
Many parents remain unaware of the possibility of obtaining proper financial support over the years during which they would be responsible for the children and many face hardship where the court would make significant awards.