Funding the Education of a Child

10th August 2021

Following the breakdown of a relationship, it is often not exclusively the financial needs of the parties that must be considered.  Often the costs of education of children of the marriage are an important factor.

In divorce proceedings consideration can be given to seeking a ‘School Fees Order’ within a divorce settlement.  This would see a contribution by parents to the costs of the education of the child of the family.  Often this is when the child is already in private education, there is sufficient income (or capital) for that to continue, the Court will make an Order to ensure that there is no prejudice or disruption to the educational welfare of the child.  An Order for parties to contribute towards the school fees extends to the end of secondary education but can also by Court Order extend to the end of tertiary education (usually to the end of the first degree).

But what happens when the parents are not married and provision can therefore not be made in a divorce settlement?  An application can be made under Schedule 1 Children Act 1989.  This legislation is most-predominantly used by the Court to determine the arrangements for children, but Schedule 1 allows for financial provision. 

Unlike the financial issues on a divorce, the costs incurred by parties in a Schedule 1 application will very often follow the event.  This makes it financially onerous to proceed unless one has a good chance of success.  This is one reason why such applications are often felt only applicable to ‘super-rich’ cases or professional sportspeople.  Schedule 1 Children Act can be used to secure capital to enable a parent to rehouse with the child.  It can be used to ‘top up’ child support if there is a maximum Child Maintenance Service assessment in place.  Pertinently, however, it is also capable of being used to seek payment to meet some or all of the expenses incurred in education.  It requires a necessary element that the child is or will be receiving instruction at an educational establishment or undergoing training for a trade, profession or vocation (whether or not while in gainful employment).

But does that include a child attending a nursery?  Recently, we successfully opposed an application by a parent seeking a contribution to the costs of placing the child of the relationship in a nursery.  As much as nursery can be educational, the Court concluded that it is not an establishment of education.  It is not mandatory education but voluntary.  An argument that the parent could not go out to work unless the child is funded to go to a nursery highlighted than in actual fact nursery was childcare rather than formal education.

If you require any advice in relation to the funding of the education of a child following the breakdown of a relationship, please contact us on 0114 5517555.

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