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Ask The Legal Expert: Private School Fees and Divorce

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My seven year old daughter is currently in private school and my ex-husband and I had intended that she would attend the same fee-paying school until university. Fair provision was made for me in the divorce proceedings, but no specific allocation was made for school fees. My ex is now unwilling to meet the fees involved and I cannot. His financial circumstances haven’t changed but he has a new partner whose children attend state school and I feel she is influencing him. I don’t want my daughter to face the uncertainty of changing schools now. What can I do?

Schooling is a common bone of contention for separated couples, and it can be disruptive for the child, when they have already dealt with changes to their family circumstance.

I would urge you both to do all you can to reach an agreement on this between you.  You can approach the Court about the issue, but you will be expected to attend mediation ahead of any Court process.

If this step fails, you can make an application for a Specific Issue Order.  A Specific Issue Order asks the Court to decide on a specific aspect of Parental Responsibility that the parents have been unable to agree on – in your case, the question of state school or private school. However, it would not cover the issue of fees.

In your application you should set out why you want the Court to make the order, and you should include evidence to support your position  - school performance reports, for example. You should also outline why you feel a change of school would have an adverse impact on her, and the Court will consider what is in the best interests of your daughter.

Regarding the fees, in hindsight this should have been dealt with in a Financial Order following the marriage breakdown. However, since this was not done, an application may be required under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 to ask the court whether the fees are to be paid by your husband.

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The question posed is based upon a hypothetical situation.