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Who pays school fees after divorce?

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If your child or children attend a fee-paying school, or this was the intention for their education, the cost of school fees must be considered during divorce. This can often be a contentious issue, especially where the cost of maintaining two separate households means it is no longer as easy to cover the expense of school fees.

In this blog, we will discuss whether child maintenance can cover school fees, whether a parent has to contribute to the cost of school fees after divorce, what a court looks at when deciding whether to order a contribution to school fees and how parents can reach agreement on covering school fees.

Please be aware that this information is being shared for general informational purposes only. As no two situations are exactly the same, it is important to obtain expert advice at an early stage. For specific advice tailored to your circumstances, please get in touch and we will be happy to help.

Can child maintenance cover school fees?

Private school fees are not covered as part of standard child maintenance, however the courts do have the power to order a parent to contribute to the cost of school fees where appropriate. This might be in the form of a one-off lump sum or an ongoing payment made alongside child maintenance.

Does a parent have to contribute to the cost of school fees after divorce?

If the child is already attending a fee-paying school or it was agreed that they would do so, then it is likely that both parents would be expected to contribute to this cost (as much as their finances allow).

However, it is important to note that the courts tend to view private school fees as a luxury, especially in areas with good state schools. Therefore, they would not expect a parent to contribute to these costs if they cannot realistically afford them. Parents should bear this in mind even if they are seeking to agree this matter privately out of court.

What will a court look at when deciding whether to order a contribution to school fees?

When considering this issue, it is worth bearing in mind what a court would look at when making a decision on school fees. This can guide parents in their thinking, whether they are hoping to agree this issue voluntarily or they suspect court proceedings may be needed.

A court is more likely to order a parent to make a contribution to school fees if:

  • The child is already attending a fee-paying school or was expected to do so
  • The child has siblings who are attending a fee-paying school
  • The parents have the financial resources to cover school fees
  • Both parents had agreed that the child would attend a fee-paying school

You should always obtain expert advice on how a court is likely to view your situation before making any decisions.

How to decide how school fees will be paid

Private agreement

If possible, the best way to make a decision regarding the payment of school fees is privately. In some cases, ex-spouses may be able to discuss the situation and come to an amicable decision fairly, quickly and without conflict.

Even if you have reached an agreement, it is still worth consulting a legal expert to make sure what you have agreed is fair. You should also consider making the agreement legally binding by applying to a court for a Consent Order.

Alternative dispute resolution

Where you cannot easily agree how school fees should be paid but still want to avoid court proceedings, you can use a form of alternative dispute resolution to achieve this.

Mediation is one common approach, involving you and your former partner meeting with a trained, neutral mediator to work through the issues and agree an outcome. Collaborative law is another highly effective option, where you, your former partner and your lawyers meet to work out an agreement amicably.

Alternative dispute resolution can be a very effective way of resolving these kinds of dispute and is typically much faster and less costly than court proceedings. It can also help you to maintain a more positive relationship with your former partner, which is likely to be of significant benefit to your child.

Court proceedings

If you cannot agree who should pay school fees, then you may need to make an application to court for a decision. This can either be done as part of an application for a Financial Order during your divorce proceedings (in which the division of your overall finances is decided) or as a separate application post-divorce.

It is vitally important to obtain expert legal advice before making a court application as the right support can significantly increase your chances of achieving a positive outcome.

Should you speak to a solicitor regarding school fees?

You may worry that getting the input of a solicitor to resolve issues such as school fees might increase the likelihood of conflict. In fact, the reverse is generally true. By making sure you clearly understand your legal position and what financial support your child is entitled to, you can approach discussions with your former spouse with more confidence.

A solicitor can also assist with reaching an amicable agreement on school fees, using the methods set out above. If court proceedings are needed, having a legal expert in your corner can significantly increase your chances of securing the outcome you and your child need.

It also important to consider that any uncertainty over school fees can have a massive impact on your child and their future, so it is advantageous for these decisions to be made as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Speak to our divorce solicitors in Clapham about school fees after divorce

Our expert divorce solicitor in Clapham will carefully listen to the circumstances surrounding your divorce to make sure we fully understand your needs and those of your children. We can then provide empathetic, practical advice that is tailored to achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family.

Our firm is headed by Donna Goodsell, a highly skilled family law solicitor with over 25 years of experience. Donna is available to provide a highly personal service in relation to your divorce.

To speak to us about school fees after divorce, or to arrange an initial consultation, please call 020 7622 2221, email enquiries@goodsellssolicitors.co.uk or complete our online enquiry form to request a call back.

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