How does children going to university affects maintenance and ongoing financial support

A Level results day is on Thursday August 18, 2022.

This summer A-level exams are planned to run as normal, with some adaptations, after the cancellations and disruption of the past two years.

When the results come in and the summer holidays finish, many families will be faced with their son or daughter heading off to university.

This is not only a huge change for the family, but it can result in issues around ongoing financial support if child maintenance has previously been paid.

Lindsey Canning, head of family law at Wake Smith Solicitors guides us through the provisions covering:

  • When child maintenance has been paid under a Child Maintenance Service assessment
  • When an adult child continues to live at home and study
  • When an adult child moves away to university
  • Is aged over 18 but has no financial support

If the child maintenance has been paid under a Child Maintenance Service assessment

If the child maintenance has been paid under a Child Maintenance Service assessment (formerly the CSA) then the rules specify that the maintenance is paid until the child is 16 years of age, or until 20 if the child continues in full time education to the end of ‘A’ levels or the equivalent. This means that once the adult child has finished ‘A’ levels, the child maintenance ends.

Some parents do agreed to include in their divorce settlement provisions for child maintenance that provide for university, frequently set out as being maintenance to the age of 18 or “full time tertiary education, limited to the first degree whichever shall be the last to occur”.

If an adult child continues to live at home and study

When child maintenance has been provided for in a Court order for child maintenance through University, and the adult child continues to live at home, then the parent who has in the past received child maintenance, should continue to receive the payments, unless the order states otherwise eg that the money is paid to the adult child.

If an adult child moves away to university

Where the adult child goes away to university, I encourage parents to try and agree that maintenance should be paid directly to the child during the year, with the understanding that when the adult child returns home during the holidays, that he/she should pay “board and lodging” to the parent with whom they live.

In this way, the paying parent knows the adult child is getting the entire benefit of the money. The parent who lives with the adult child during the holidays receives money for their out of pocket expense. It also encourages the adult child to start to assume financial responsibility for themselves.

Over 18 but no financial support

If an adult child finds themselves aged 18 but without any financial support for university, there is provision.

Under the Schedule 1 Children Act 1989,  an adult child, in education, can make an application for maintenance (periodical payments) from one or both parents.

The application cannot be made if the parents are still living together in the same household, but only if there was no maintenance order in force with respect to him/her before immediately before their 16th birthday.

Such applications these days are rare predominately because of the availability of student loans to pay for both tuition and living costs, but also that an adult child is unlikely to get legal aid to fund their application.

The provisions for adult children after the age of 18 can be complex and so it is always better for the parents to agree on how they are going to support their children through university and until what stage.

For further advice on financial support for children contact Lindsey Canning at Wake Smith Solicitors on 0114 224 2081.

Find out more about our family law services.

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