Dependent children are legally entitled to maintenance support from their parents, whether the parents are married or unmarried.
After a relationship ends, you may be entitled to receive maintenance support for yourself. This financial support can be from a current or former spouse, civil partner or cohabitant. Maintenance support can apply even if there is no physical or emotional relationship between the parties.
If the parties cannot agree on maintenance, either party can apply to court for a maintenance order.
Who is eligible for maintenance?
The following is not an exhaustive list of those eligible for maintenance support.
You might want to get legal advice or the help of support services to see if you qualify.
A dependent child is a child who is:
- under 18 years old, or
- over 18 and under 23 years old but is still in full-time education or who would be in full-time education if a maintenance order was made for their support, or
- is of any age and has a mental or physical disability to the extent that they cannot maintain themselves.
You have a lifetime obligation to provide maintenance where it is not reasonably possible for that child to maintain themselves. A child's individual needs will be a matter for the court to interpret.
Note: an adult child aged between 18 and 23 in full-time education can apply for maintenance on their own behalf
You are eligible to apply for maintenance from your spouse when you have split up. You might still be living in the same house. You may or may not yet have started divorce or judicial separation proceedings. The amount of maintenance will depend on each of your abilities to pay. In some cases, a judge may decide who is maintenance debtor and who is maintenance creditor.
- It does not depend on whether you acted in the role of parent.
- In certain circumstances, you may have to pay maintenance even after a divorce is obtained.
- Maintenance obligations to a spouse only stop on the remarriage or death of the other spouse.
You are eligible to apply for maintenance from your civil partner where you have split up. You might still be living in the same house. You may or may not yet have started dissolution proceedings. The amount of maintenance will depend on each of your abilities to pay. In some cases, a judge may decide who is maintenance debtor and who is maintenance creditor.
- In certain circumstances, you may have to pay maintenance after the civil partnership has been dissolved by the court.
- Maintenance obligations to a civil partner only stop on the remarriage or death of the other partner.
A cohabitant refers to any one of two adults (of the same or opposite sex) who:
- live together as a couple in an intimate and committed relationship
- are not married or in a civil partnership
- not related to each other in a way that would make them ineligible to marry
Not all cohabitants qualify for maintenance.
To be a qualified cohabitant, you must:
- be living together for five years where there are no children from the relationship, or for two years where you have children together
- be financially dependent on the other person to meet the Redress Scheme for Cohabiting Couples rules
If one cohabitant is still married, they must be living apart from their spouse for at least four out of the previous five years.
As a cohabitant who is the parent of a dependent child, you can apply for maintenance in respect of this child from your partner where you are a guardian of that child.
You must make maintenance applications within two years of the relationship ending where the other cohabitant is still alive.
Where the other cohabitant has died, you might want to get legal advice as you may be able to make an application for provision from their estate within 6 months of a probate application.