Private school fees can be a massive concern when there is a breakdown in the relationship leading to separation, dissolution or divorce.

The court has the power to make a school fees order, if resources permit the continued payment of the school fees. This can be done by agreement of the parties and included in a consent order or alternatively, in the absence of agreement, the court can make an order at the end of the financial remedy proceedings. The court can also make an order for school fees through a specific issue order.

The court is often much more inclined to make an order for fees if the child or children are already in private education and have been for some time. The court does take the needs of the children after divorce as its first consideration, particularly if removal from school is likely to adversely affect them. The order can cover the entire school fees, which may include extras such as boarding fees, school uniform, school trips, music lessons, etc. However, it does have to be affordable.

The payment of private school fees is distinctly separate from child maintenance payments and can be dealt with in isolation as an additional cost. If you already have a court order in place which deals with school fees, you may apply to the court to vary the order if your circumstances change or if your ex-spouse or former civil partner’s circumstances change.

Only the boarding element of private school fees impacts on the appropriate level of child maintenance.  The general principle is that the fees relating to boarding should be deducted from the paying parent’s gross income before the standard Child Maintenance Service formula is applied to calculate the appropriate sum.  If maintenance is formally assessed by the CMS then a variation would need to be sought by the paying parent to get boarding fees factored in.

University costs | School fees

There is no one way in which the courts approach the question of university costs and who foots the bill, or makes a monetary contribution. If it is foreseeable that the child or children will go to university in the near future then it is typically dealt with as part of the overall financial negotiation within divorce proceedings. The court deals with university costs on a case-by-case basis and it is heavily dependent on the respective incomes of the parties and whether or not needs of the parties can be reasonably met and whether there is university funding available.

Once the child reaches 18 they will have to bring an application against the relevant parent themselves; this of course can be uncomfortable for the child and it is therefore advantageous for the application to be brought by a parent well in advance of the child’s 18th birthday.


If you are considering applying to the court to vary an existing order in relation to school fees and or university costs, or if you are concerned about the impact of a divorce or dissolution on the payment of such fees, you should take early legal advice from a specialist family lawyer.