Child support advice sought ‘over university costs’

More divorced mothers are seeking legal advice about whether ex-husbands can extend support payments for children at university, a law firm has said.

August 18, 2013

Pannone, a family law firm with offices in London and Manchester, said its staff had seen a surge in enquiries about maintenance payments to help support children in higher education since tuition fees rose to £9,000 last year.

Many women did not realise that they could apply for maintenance beyond the end of a child’s secondary education, said Pannone associate Naomi Rainey.

“Many seem to assume that it automatically comes to an end when a child finishes secondary school,” said Ms Rainey said. “That, though, is not necessarily the case,” she said.

The combination of a rise in the number of children going on to university and increases in tuition fees had led a growing number of women to explore what extra money might be available, she added.

About a third of family law cases at Pannone relate to claims involving children either at or approaching the age when they might become undergraduates, she said.

However, women would need to apply to a court to change the terms of any child maintenance agreement, she said.

“Such a move is not that common, partially because there are costs attached to the process which can prove something of a deterrent,” said Ms Rainey.

“However, domestic financial circumstances and the sheer expense of furthering a child’s education is compelling more women to try.”

In most cases where a parent received maintenance though the Child Support Agency, payments will end when the child finishes secondary education.

However, courts do have powers to extend maintenance to the end of his or her university degree or vocational training course.

Courts place particular focus on a child’s financial needs, the non-resident parent’s ability to pay and the manner in which the child is expected to be educated or trained, said Ms Rainey.

Regardless of the availability of student loans, courts may order that maintenance should be extended if a child genuinely needs financial support and the parent concerned has the means to provide it, she said.

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