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School fees and divorce or separation



  • It is extremely common for parents to make a joint decision to educate their children at fee-paying schools.


  • Upon divorce, the Court has the power to Order one parent to pay school fees.


  • The Child Maintenance Service cannot Order nor assess a parent as being liable to pay school fees, only the Court can do this in the absence of an agreement.


  • If you are a separated and unmarried parent the Court may have the power to Order one parent to pay school fees under schedule 1 of the Children Act. The status quo, i.e. the education which your child is used to, is relevant, as is the financial circumstances of both parents.


  • Child maintenance will take precedence over school fees; if the paying party cannot afford both, the maintenance will come first.




  • On separation, ensure you are absolutely clear on how the school fees are paid – if they are paid from a joint account, there is a possibility that your ex will stop paying into it during the divorce, so it is an issue to raise early on with your legal team.


  • Inform your child’s school bursar of the change in your circumstances. Frequently the liability to pay school fees is joint. It may be your child is eligible for a bursary or a scholarship.


  • If you are considering moving your child from a private school to an alternative private school or a state school, consider the length of any notice period.


  • Both parents/ everyone who holds Parental Responsibility needs to consent to a change of school; if there is not agreement, the parent seeking to change the child’s school will need to issue a Court application for a Specific Issue Order.


  • Make an application for Child Maintenance to the CMS; whilst school fees are dealt with separately to child maintenance, you will usually need the assessment for your case.


The issue of school fees is linked to both education and the welfare of your child, and the financial position of both parents. It is not a straightforward issue and it is one that you should address, with specialist legal advice, as early on as you can so do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss any of these issues further with one of our child maintenance solicitors.

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