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Child Maintenance - Court Weighs Up Lifestyle Expectations and Resources

Sensible people accept that they have a moral responsibility financially to maintain their children, whether or not they are born in wedlock. As a High Court case showed, the extent of such responsibilities largely depends on needs, reasonable lifestyle expectations and the availability of resources to meet them.

The case concerned a couple who never married but whose relationship endured for about seven years, yielding a planned and much-wanted daughter. The father, a highly successful entrepreneur, was worth about £190 million. The mother asserted that, while they lived together, there were few, if any, constraints on their spending and lifestyle choices. After their relationship ended, she launched proceedings against him seeking financial provision for their child.

Ruling on the matter, the Court noted that the father enjoyed some of the glamorous trappings of wealth, including a collection of cars worth tens of millions. However, his lifestyle was in other respects modest and he was not a man who would choose to shop in Bond Street or eat out regularly at smart restaurants. He was a good father to his children by a previous relationship and did not deny his obligation to provide for his daughter, with whom he wished to form a close relationship.

The mother, who had few assets of her own and negligible savings, described the extent of the father's wealth as incomprehensible and pointed to the enviable lifestyle they enjoyed during their relationship. Whilst accepting that he could well afford to meet any reasonable financial order the Court might make, the father said he should not be required to sign a blank cheque for his daughter, who was aged four when the matter reached court.

The Court ordered the father to provide a £1.6 million fund so that the mother could buy a new home of her choosing for herself and her daughter. He was also required to pay associated acquisition, maintenance and repair costs. He would, however, retain ownership of the property and he would be entitled to sell it three months after his daughter reached adulthood or finished her tertiary education, whichever event came later.

He was directed to cover his daughter's school fees and to pay a £109,000 lump sum to meet the cost of furnishing and equipping the property and to fund back surgery needed by the mother. He was ordered to buy the mother a new car every four years, up to a value of £110,000, and to pay child maintenance of £150,000 a year, including a carer's allowance. The latter orders would cease to have effect when his daughter reached the age of 18 or completed her first degree.