My child has gone to university and the other parent will not contribute, what do I do?
The start of a new university term brings with it a financial strain upon parents with children. Separated parents can particularly feel the pinch and many parents query what can be done if the other parent refuses to contribute to their child’s ongoing educational costs whilst at university.
Child maintenance payments (as dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service), will cease when the child involved is aged 16 or when they finish full time secondary education (college education), potentially then leaving a shortfall when the child goes to university.
In terms of practical tips, the first thing you should do is undertake an exercise whereby you total up your child’s university expenses vs the income they are going to have available to them from student loans, grants, employment or other financial contributions they are to receive. It is important to identify what the realistic short fall will be between the child’s income and their anticipated outgoings whilst at university, so you can establish what realistically you need the other parent to pay.
Initially, you should have an open and frank conversation with the parent, with all of the facts and figures you have gathered and request the level of contribution required from them.
If that doesn’t work, you and the other parent could also attend mediation to attempt to resolve any dispute. A mediator is a trained professional who will help you explore the issues, allow you both to have your say and assist you in reaching an agreement.
In the absence of reaching an agreement, it is always important that you seek legal advice from a family law solicitor as to your options. At Maguire Family Law, we can guide you in terms of your legal options. For example, initially we can write to the other parent having obtained the evidence from you required to try and reach an agreement. We can also advise you in respect of potential court applications if appropriate (referenced below).
It is possible for a parent to make a court application under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 (“schedule 1”) for periodical payments (financial support) or for a lump sum for a child over the age over the age of 18 if they are in “full time” education, or, if there are special circumstances (for example the child involved has a disability).
As part of the process, the court would expect there to be financial disclosure of the assets and income of both the parents and the child involved.
Sometimes it may be appropriate that the child themselves (if over 18) makes the application. Again, this is something that can be discussed at the outset.
When determining a schedule 1 application, the court must look to “all of the circumstances of the case” including:
- the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each person has or is likely to have in the future;
- the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each person 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;
- The manner in which the child was being, or was expected to be educated or trained.
If you are considering a court application, it is vital you take early advice about your prospects of success and the proportionality of pursuing a court application.
If you are presently in a situation where your child has just gone to university and you are worried about the level of financial support needed from the other parent take specialist family law advice.