Absentee fathers have a legal duty to financially support their children – but only within reason. That point was strikingly made in one case in which a mother sought £780,000 a year in maintenance for her seven-year-old son from an extremely wealthy father who had shown no interest in the boy and had never even seen him.

The mother was adamant that her son should enjoy the same glittering lifestyle as his father, who was a member of a Middle Eastern royal family. Despite his youth, she argued that his father should buy him membership of prestigious golf clubs and private boxes at sporting events. It was submitted that his essential needs included a nanny, governess and housekeeper and regular first class holiday flights.

Family lawyer Amanda Holland comments:

Maintenance should be set at a reasonable level: this does not normally mean an obligation to pay for a luxury lifestyle.

The father, whose Islamic marriage to the mother was not recognised under English law, had been paying £204,000 a year in maintenance for his son for almost three years. He had provided the mother and son with a £3.45 million home and had paid off her £770,000 debts, although she was again in financial difficulties. She had pursued her son's financial claims through the courts over a number of years, running up several million pounds in legal costs, almost all of which the father had paid.

The mother bore sole responsibility for bringing up the boy, who suffers from serious health problems. However, in striking out her application to more than triple the father's maintenance payments, the High Court found that she was prone to chaotic, unwise and impulsive decision-making and that her demands were unreasonable. The maintenance which the boy currently received from his father was suitable and appropriate for his upkeep and welfare.

For further information on advice on negotiating fair financial terms on a family break-up or other family related matters, please contact Amanda Holland on 0121 698 2200, email a.holland@sydneymitchell.co.uk or fill in our online enquiry form.

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