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Is everyone a winner?

The case of a greedy and money grabbing son of a wealthy millionaire who wanted a share of his father’s Euromillions win of £101 million has hit the headlines.  Was it greedy or was Michael Dawes only asking for what he was entitled to?  How much financial support does a parent owe to their child?
Michael Dawes was a 32 year old who once worked as a university lecturer before serving in Afghanistan.  His father, Dave Dawes, a factory worker, won £101 million on the Euromillions lottery.  Dave spent approximately £30 million of his winnings on his friends and family, including more than £1.5 million on Michael which allowed him to buy a house and a BMW.  However, after a row, the relationship between Michael and his father broke down and Dave refused to give him any more money. Michael took his father to Court seeking financial support from him for the rest of his father’s life.  Michael appears to have founded his claim on a promise he considers his father gave him that he would always be looked after following the lucky winning ticket.  Michael’s claim was unsuccessful with the judge commenting that Michael had been provided with the funds to live a comfortable life but had instead behaved like a “profligate son”. He said that any payments previously given to Michael from the winnings did not imply that there would be an unlimited source of funding.
This leads us to consider what obligations parents do have to support their children, for how long, in what circumstances, whether they are wealthy or not.  In Scotland all parents have an obligation to support their children financially up until the age of 25 if the child is reasonably and appropriately undergoing instruction at an educational establishment, or training for employment or for a trade, profession or vocation.   That means that anyone over the age of 25, regardless of their own financial circumstances, does not have a right to financial support from their parents.  It also means that young people at college or university will have such a claim. There may, of course, be debate as to what constitutes “reasonably and appropriately undergoing instruction” especially where young people are perhaps doing a second degree, or repeating years of university due to failure, etc.  However, the general principal is pretty clear. 
So, how much support is required?  Should rich parents pay more to their children than poor parents?  While children are under the age of 16, child maintenance is exclusively regulated by the Child Maintenance Service.  The child’s resources, and the income of the parent with whom the child lives, are not taken into account at all.  Only the “non-resident” parent’s or payer’s income is taken into account.  The amount payable is calculated by using a pretty rigid formula and is based on a percentage of a parent’s weekly salary.  The amount payable is then discounted to take into account the number of nights the non-resident parent may have the child living with them and any other children the non-resident parent is obliged to financially support.  The amount of financial support payable is therefore directly linked to the parent’s income.
After the child reaches 16, the Child Maintenance Service no longer applies and child maintenance can be regulated by the Court.  At this stage the amount paid to the child is based on the needs and resources of all the parties, including the child, as well as the earning capacities of the parent and the child and all the circumstances of the case.  It will therefore be relevant that the child has rented a flat, or has a part time job, while studying.  The amount payable is therefore not directly linked to a parent’s income, although that is likely to be the most important factor taken into account.
How does this explain Michael Dawes’ claim?  In Scotland Michael’s parents would have no obligation to financially support him given that he is over the age of 25.  In order to bring a claim Michael would have to be under 18 or under 25 and undergoing instruction at an educational establishment.  Even then, the Court would still need to take into account the needs and resources of both Dave and Michael, the earning capacities of both of them and all the circumstances of the case.  In England the law is not dissimilar to that in Scotland.  In England parents have a duty to support their children up to the age of 18 or beyond that if the child is under the age of 25 and is receiving instruction at an educational establishment or undergoing training for a trade, profession or vocation, whether or not in gainful employment or if there are special circumstances which justify the making of an order even if the child is not in education.  This may be why Michael tried to base his claim on a promise or contract, which was still ultimately unsuccessful.