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Excessive school tuition budget slammed by High Court judge

In an unreported High Court case, Roberts J has refused to award a mother an additional tuition fund for her already privately educated children.

The mother applied for £150,000 per annum to cover expenses relating to the children. Of that sum £60,000 was to cover the cost of out-of-school tuition. The father argued that the children were already being privately educated, at his expense, and that there was not evidence that they needed the degree of extra tuition the mother was currently arranging for them. The father sought only to pay for extra tuition as recommended by the children’s school.

Roberts J decide that an appropriate level of overall financial support for the children was £70,000 per annum, stating that “I have scrutinised her budget and it does seem to me that, whilst there needs to be some provision for extra tuition, the costs advanced by the applicant are unrealistic in the terms of the time available to these children outside their normal school hours”.

Roberts J was further concerned by the amount of time the children appeared to be spending at school or in tuition, stating “I did wonder on occasions through the course of her evidence when these two young people had any opportunity simply to enjoy being teenagers. I could not see that very much time at all was left in their busy lives for normal healthy socialising with their peers”.

In reaching a figure, Roberts J took into account the wealth of the parties – with the father having at least an estimated £30m in assets. The mother, who is married to the children’s father, is expected to receive a multi-million pound financial settlement herself. Therefore Roberts J took the view that it will be for the children’s mother to pay for any additional tuition over and above the school’s recommendation, from the child support she receives and her own wealth.

Divorcing couples often clash over the necessity of private school fees and who will pay them. In the matter of WD v HD EWHC 1547 (Fam) the parties had reached a financial agreement by consent, which involved the husband paying spousal maintenance to the wife and child 1’s school fees out right. Further, he was to pay 25% of his bonus towards child 2’s school fees. Two years after the order was approved by the court, the husband applied to the court to vary its terms. The husband sought to remove the need to pay spousal maintenance at all and for the wife to become responsible for the child 2’s school fees. The husband at this point was earning £195,000 compared to £18,000pa earned by the wife. The judge at first instance ruled that the wife’s spousal maintenance should stop completely and for her to become responsible for a greater proportion of child 2’s school fees. The wife appealed the decision. On appeal, the court found that both parties should be required to make sacrifices in order for their children to attend private school and that in these parent’s circumstances, the husband should pay both children’s school fees in full but the wife was to no longer receive any spousal maintenance.

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