Sabina Smith, Family Law Consultant at Wollens advises:
With students around the country about to set off for university this month, we have had a number of recent enquiries at Wollens about this particular issue.
The short answer is that, in general terms, if you are currently paying child support to a former spouse or partner for your son or daughter, this liability is likely to cease once your child leaves school after completing A levels (or equivalent courses such as NVQ Level 3) and transfers to university.
If you are paying child support following an assessment by the government’s Child Maintenance Service (previously known as the Child Support Agency), then you must continue paying in all circumstances whilst you child is under 16 years of age. However once your child reaches 16, your liability to pay usually only continues if they are in full time “non advanced” education meaning A Levels, or equivalent post 16 courses such as NVQ Level 3 or the International Baccalaureate.
Studying for a university degree is not regarded as “non advanced” education and child support is therefore not legally required once your child is at University.
Irrespective of this, many parents understandably still wish to provide some financial support for their children through the university years. These payments would be on an entirely voluntary basis – there is no legal obligation to provide financial support at this point. Where payments are made voluntarily for a university student, parents often choose to pay the money to their child direct, rather than making the payments to the other parent as before, to reflect that their son or daughter is now living more independently of mum and dad.
In terms of timing, when a child completes A level studies in the summer, liability for child support ends on 31 August. So if you pay child support on a monthly basis to your ex partner, the August installment would be the final payment.
NB – Please note that in any case where child support is payable under a court order, rather than under a Child Maintenance Service assessment, different rules will apply and parents should seek specific legal advice on their position.
You can email Sabina Smith, Family Law Consultant: Sabina.Smith@wollens.co.uk or call 01392 539206
For further enquiries relating to family matters please contact our family team