The answer, quite simply, is yes. The law is gender-neutral and does not care whether the parent looking after a child every day is male or female. Therefore, single Dads are just as entitled to child support payments as mothers – as long as they are the resident parent: the one with whom the child lives each day.
Following divorce or separation, child support is paid by the non-resident parent, in order to support the upkeep of the child or children. The payment of child support is a legal requirement but separated parents are encouraged to reach a private agreement between themselves on how much will be paid and when. This is called a family-based arrangement. Private arrangements can be straightforward and they have the advantage of helping to keep lines of communication between the parents open – something that is very definitely in the interests of their children.
The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will only intervene if the parents cannot reach an agreement, the non-resident refuses to cooperate, or the resident parent has a good reason to not want to contact the former spouse or partner: for example, domestic violence or coercive behaviour. The resident parent must apply to the CMS for assistance, and a small fee (currently £20) is payable when they do.
The CMS has the authority to locate the other parent (if that is at issue), calculate a reasonable sum, and then enforce payment.
What about spousal maintenance?
Child support is one of the two types of maintenance payment typically ordered by the family courts following divorce: the other is spousal maintenance. As the name suggests, these ‘periodical payments’ are made by the wealthier party in a marriage to their former spouse as form of ongoing financial support, in addition to the settlement agreed or ordered during the divorce. The law concerning payment of spousal maintenance is also gender neutral. If a wife earns more money than her husband or is simply wealthier, he may be awarded some level of spousal maintenance if there are limitations on his ability to find employment and earn a salary.
Spousal maintenance may be a temporary arrangement or a lifelong one, depending on the family’s individual circumstances. In most cases, however, the family courts will seek to end any ongoing financial relationship between divorced spouses as soon as they can.
Do single Dads always get maintenance?
The law may be gender-neutral, but of course, reality is often more complicated. Single fathers are still uncommon and many have to run the gauntlet of age-old gender stereotypes that insist looking after children on a daily basis is a mother’s job and fathers should be out there earning a salary. Some single fathers encounter outright suspicion and confusion as they go about their day, and unfortunately, these old-fashioned attitudes can leak into the family courts. Judges and magistrates are not always as sympathetic as they could be to fathers during divorce or following separation, so if you are a single Dad, you may have to make a strong case for a maintenance award. But don’t be dissuaded by old school attitudes – if, for whatever reason, you will be the one looking after the children every day, or if your former spouse is significantly wealthier, you are just as entitled to financial support as she would have been had the roles been reversed.
An experienced family solicitor will be able to outline your rights and the options open to you.