Deciding which school to send your children to can be a difficult decision. We are very lucky in Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding towns and villages that we have some fantastic schools in both state and private sectors. If going for a State School, your forms will have been submitted, and you will be waiting for a decision to be made in April.
For many, a private education is what has been agreed by both parties to a marriage or relationship, and a client asked me the other day about School Fees - ‘Will I have to continue to contribute to these?’
The answer is that the Court can make something called a ‘School Fees Order’, and will do so if appropriate. The majority of these Orders are made by agreement, and are one of many factors that I would include in a ‘Financial Remedy Order’ (these used to be called ‘Consent Orders’ if friends have spoken about them to you in the past). If the child is already at a private school, then this should have been something that was agreed by both parents with parental responsibility, and a parent seeking that another continues to contribute towards school fees would need to apply for a Specific Issues Order to decide the matter, if an agreement could not be reached. The party seeking a contribution would need to show that it would be damaging to the child to move them from their existing private school.
It should be noted however that there needs to be the money to pay for fees in the first place. If there is a change in financial circumstances, and a paying parent’s income reduces, or they cannot afford to continue to contribute because of the change in living arrangements for example, then the payment of child maintenance is the priority, and child maintenance and school fees are two very separate things. This means that a paying parent cannot get a reduction in the amount of child maintenance that they are required to pay, because of their contributions to school fees.
In many circumstances, parties may have agreed to make sacrifices as a family to pay for school fees. A 2015 case, WD v HD  EWHC 1547 (Fam) (28 April 2015), at the High Court stated that “Both parties want their children to attend private school and both have to make sacrifices as a result.” In that case, a Father was ordered to pay for the school fees for both children in full, but the spousal maintenance he was paying to his ex-wife was terminated.
You should ensure that you obtain expert legal advice from a family lawyer who cares before agreeing what each party will pay towards school fees, or committing to the payment of school fees.