Is it possible to share school fees with your ex-partner?

Is it possible to make your ex-partner contribute to paying school fees?

With the start of the school year upcoming, many will be thinking about the school fees that will need to be paid for the new term. Although some parents may find that these arrangements are easy to agree on, others face difficulties in agreeing if and how these fees should be shared. 

Married parents

If you and your spouse are divorcing, financial arrangements for children are ordinary dealt with when settling all other finances arising from the marriage either in a consent order or order of the court. However, if you’re not married or the issue of school fees arises thereafter, the issue of school fees can be dealt with under Schedule 1 of the Children’s Act 1989.

Unmarried parents

In circumstances where a separation between unmarried partners is occurring, it is important to address all the key financial arrangements for yourselves and any children of the relationship.  

However, if you cannot agree on the arrangement’s for school fees with your ex-partner, you are likely going to need to apply under Schedule 1.

What orders can be made under Schedule 1 in respect of school fees?

It is possible for the court to make periodical payment and lump sum orders.

Periodical payment orders 

A periodical payment order provides for payments to be paid in intervals. Therefore, for example, in the case of school fees it could be that the order is made for the termly school fees to be paid at the beginning of each term.

Although most claims for maintenance are dealt with via the Child Maintenance Service (“CMS”), the court still retains jurisdiction to make periodical payment orders for maintenance in certain circumstances, including for orders for educational expenses regardless of any non-resident parent’s income.

As well as school fees, orders can include any expenses directly “related to education and training for a vocation, trade or profession”. Expenses can include items such as extra-curricular activities, school trips and boarding fees. A claim can be made if a child is currently receiving the education or training or will be when the order is made. Fortunately, the order can be made regardless of if the child is in employment or not.

Such orders can continue past a child’s 18th birthday if they remain in education or training.

Lump sum orders

It is also possible for a parent to apply for a lump sum for school fees and expenses, as long as they can prove that the other parent has enough liquid capital to fund these fees (although it is possible for the lump sum to be paid in instalments). 

A court is able to make an order for a lump sum at any time for expenses incurred in maintaining a child. Past expenses can be included but they will need to have been reasonably incurred before the making of the order.

What the court considers in making a school fees order 

When considering whether an order should be made or not, the court has a wide discretion with the welfare of the child being the paramount consideration.

However, all the circumstances of the case will be taken into account, including: 

  • the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources each party has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
  • the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities that each party has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
  • the financial needs of the child
  • the income, earning capacity (if any), property and other financial resources of the child
  • any physical or mental disability of the child, and
  • the manner in which the child was being, or was expected to be, educated or trained

Enforcing a school fees order

You can also use the courts to enforce an order if you already have one in place and the other parent refuses to pay. However, if your ex-partner’s financial situation has changed and they are unable to make payment, they may apply to the court to modify the existing order in order to reduce the amount they pay or stop payment of fees if there has been a substantial change in their financial circumstances.

How Moore Barlow can help

If you wish for your ex-partner to contribute towards your child’s school fees and you cannot agree on this matter, we will be able to assist you initially through non court options and if needed, can help you to apply for a periodical payments or lump sum order in order to obtain a contribution towards the fees.

Alternatively, if you are experiencing difficulties with an existing order, we can also assist in ensuring any current order for school fees is enforced and remains in place.

Our experienced family and divorce solicitors will be able to fully advise you on all steps of the process to ensure your case is appropriately progressed.