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Step-mum and Student Finance/Loans Company

(39 Posts)
goakland3 Fri 21-Feb-20 18:32:00

Hi everyone, this is my first time here, I hope you're all doing well.

I have a question about my daughter's student finance application.
I am a divorced, but re-married father of 3, and I currently live alone with my daughter, as my wife and I live completely separately. My wife, my daughter's step-mother, lives in her own house, and has all of her financial ties associated with her own household and close family. Needless to say, we live and operate separately, and my daughter (nor myself) will receive financial support from my wife.

For this reason - I was wondering, what happens if my daughter doesn't list her step-mother on the finance application? I have a single-occupancy tax bill to evidence myself and my daughter being the only people at this address. I know this topic is a hard one, and there are stories of the game of SFE/SLC being "played", but we're a low-middle class household, and I'd like my daughter to receive as much support from the maintenance loans as possible.

Thanks very much,
Kindest regards.

OP’s posts: |
MollysMummy2010 Fri 21-Feb-20 19:01:55

Why do you live apart if you are married? I am not sure that the SF co would think this a usual situation and may deem you a family unit, unfair as it may seem.

I do find this a stark contrast to the CMS where new partners/step parents are disregarded in maintenance calculations.

Menopauseandteensdontmix100 Fri 21-Feb-20 19:23:46

I would call SFE and explain the situation and ask what evidence they would accept to assess your daughters application purely on your income. Probably a solicitors letter confirming separation but I would check this with them and also include a separate covering letter. If you send in a solicitors letters or covering letter send it recorded delivery and keep copies of everything sent in.

goakland3 Fri 21-Feb-20 19:41:29

@MollysMummy2010 It's an odd situation, but she has her own family which she stays with the majority of the time, and whilst we're married - she has her own house, and her own children who live in said house. I think my main concern would be - how would SFE know I have a wife? Admitted, that question seems dubious, but my wife has no financial connection to mine and my daughter's house whatsoever.

OP’s posts: |
goakland3 Fri 21-Feb-20 19:44:02

@Menopauseandteensdontmix100 That's the thing. We're not legally separated, our marriage is intact at the moment, but as mentioned in the comment above - my wife lives in her own house with her own children, meaning she has no ties to my household at all. Also mentioned above - my main query is, how would SFE/SLC know my marital status, considering I was eligible for a single occupancy council tax bill (25%), which I could send in? Thanks to both yourself and @MollysMummy2010 .

OP’s posts: |
CondeNasty Fri 21-Feb-20 20:07:43

Your best bet would be to contact student finance and ask. I would do it in writing/via email so you have evidence just in case. While you may be married you dont form a household together and she has no financial responsibility to your daughter, so I imagine you should be solely liable.

goakland3 Fri 21-Feb-20 22:50:25

Hi @CondeNasty, I've been contacting them through a recommended site called the student room, but answers are a little erratic. Peculiarly, they don't have an email address/line...

My biggest fear is that I send off my single occupancy document, prove I am indeed living alone and then something drastic happens in year 4, for example, and my daughter is penalised... Are you familiar with this sort of thing? I might be exaggerating in panic, however.

Many thanks.

OP’s posts: |
Alarae Fri 21-Feb-20 23:40:20

I found this:

https://www.ucas.com/student-finance-england/student-finance-guidance-parents-and-partners

Which states:

If you’re married, Student Finance England will need your spouse’s income even if you don’t live together, or they’re not the student’s parent.

Which suggests you need to put your wife's income down on the application regardless.

Contact details for Student Finance are here, if you want further clarification:

https://www.gov.uk/contact-student-finance-england

MarchingFrogs Sat 22-Feb-20 00:46:51

I've contacted SFE in the past via Messenger and had very prompt response from an adviser.

DreemOn Sat 22-Feb-20 07:55:00

Alarae has it.

You do need to declare it. It's clear.

It's such a shit system. Lots of people take advantage and those who genuinely need the help can't get it.

Why should a step parent have anything to do with an adults finances! It's crazy but it is what it is.

ArriettyJones Sat 22-Feb-20 09:30:23

It’s contradictory because they also reference “household income” and (I paraphrase) resident step parents.

Quite honestly, I’d be tempted to file for judicial separation now, which could hardly be queried if you’ve been maintaining separate households for some time. It would just be a formalisation of the situation as is. (You are domestically separated, whilst still married and this is about technicalities, not emotional relationships.)

throwaway201809 Sat 22-Feb-20 09:41:46

The student room website you mentioned is just a public forum. Just call up Student Finance England and they'll be able to answer all of your questions about this.

Evidencebased Sat 22-Feb-20 09:50:20

Well I'm married but left my husband years ago, but never officially separated.
I didn't have a single council tax discount, as had adult child living with me.
I did a statutory declaration, which honestly described my situation, including that I was solely responsible for the student.
Student finance considered it soley on my income, and student got maximum loan.

I would have thought the issue at the heart of this is
1. Are your and your wife's finances completely separate?
and 2. Does your wife have any financial responsibility for you and the student?

Evidencebased Sat 22-Feb-20 09:54:19

Ps. I found Student Finance answers to be confusing, contradictory, and inaccurate.
I can describe to you in message the process I followed for each of my student offspring. Once Student finance had decided what box to put me in, no problems.

goakland3 Sun 23-Feb-20 15:22:24

@Alarae Thanks for the links to the information sources, I'll take a look at them.

@MarchingFrogs Thanks for letting me know about their presence on Messenger, I will contact them shortly regarding this issue.

@DreemOn It does seem like an incredibly broken and unfair system. As mentioned, we're a low-middle class household, meaning we qualify for income assessment, but are just slightly over the thin line which makes it unfair.

@ArriettyJones We know a family lawyer, and he had recommended a technical separation so that my daughter can qualify for higher government support. He recommended we initiate a Decree Nisi, and never make it absolute - i.e. stating an intent to divorce, and thus proving separation, but never actually falling through with it, as SFE states they accept a Decree Nisi as proof of separation.

@throwaway201809 I'm aware, I was posting on their 'official adviser' forum, so I was speaking with SFE officials. I will contact them more directly shortly.

@Evidencebased We may have some financial ties, but she has her own house, and the majority of her bills and incomes are addressed to said house. Also, no - she will not be aiding the student whatsoever, and for that reason - I don't want my daughter's loan to be crippled by somebody who won't be contributing a penny... Also, I must say I'm unfamiliar with this website, but I would appreciate your help. I believe I have sent you a message.

Thanks to everybody for replying. This is, as mentioned, a technical battle and I do appreciate your responses.

OP’s posts: |
ArriettyJones Sun 23-Feb-20 15:32:06

* He recommended we initiate a Decree Nisi, and never make it absolute - i.e. stating an intent to divorce, and thus proving separation, but never actually falling through with it, as SFE states they accept a Decree Nisi as proof of separation.*

That’ll do it. Good luck with it.

Xenia Sun 23-Feb-20 16:34:29

If we start from the stance that taking money from the state may be morally wrong and we put me on the moral highground of funding my children without student debt and yet I pay a ton of tax to keep all those students who are milking the system dry and will never pay back a penny..... then I would put the living apart from wife on the form.

goakland3 Sun 23-Feb-20 16:38:01

@ArriettyJones Are you familiar with this process? Have you done it before? I obviously want my daughter to receive as much support from our government as possible - but I don't want to do it if they can rigorously check this sort of thing and cause problems 2/3 years down the line, for example.

OP’s posts: |
goingoverground Sun 23-Feb-20 16:55:15

@goakland3 SFE just requires a council tax bill showing single occupancy as proof of separation if you aren't legally separated or divorcing but live separately and are financially separated. You also have to send proof of income so that may show that you are married eg if you use the marriage tax allowance.

The issue is, you aren't financially separated and you are still married. Unlike a couple who have genuinely separated, you are choosing to run 2 separate homes and the extra cost that incurs rather than having no choice.

When it comes to the means tested part of the loan, it's actually your DD who is losing out as the more she borrows, the greater her debt. If your DD gets a means tested maintenance loan, many universities have bursaries that are automatically paid out based on their SFE application. It is fraud if your DD is receiving money for students from low income households because you are lying about being separated. Is that your motivation for doing this?

ArriettyJones Sun 23-Feb-20 17:23:00

@ArriettyJones Are you familiar with this process? Have you done it before? I obviously want my daughter to receive as much support from our government as possible - but I don't want to do it if they can rigorously check this sort of thing and cause problems 2/3 years down the line, for example.

I had a similar (not identical) situation in that I was recently separated and (for various reasons I won’t bore you with) had been going to wait and divorce after five years on the basis of 5 years separation. But because of the student finance situation I had to generate some kind of legal proof (judicial separation suited my circumstances but I can see Decree Nisi does the same job).

That was several years ago. I still haven’t quite racked up five years of separation, so haven’t divorced. But D.C. has graduated. No issue has arisen.

I was quite comfortable because I wasn’t misrepresenting our household, just trying to come up with the paperwork SLC wanted.

I think you’re similarly justified. You do not share a household or finances with another adult, after all.

goakland3 Sun 23-Feb-20 17:51:28

@ArriettyJones Yeah, I'm not too worried - but we don't necessarily plan to divorce, and for that reason - the Decree Nisi would be drafted/put in play for the sole purpose of identifying to the loans company a financial separation, and once the funding is approved and my daughter is out of university - this document will be disregarded and the marriage will continue... It's peculiar, but seems necessary.

OP’s posts: |
goingoverground Sun 23-Feb-20 19:02:53

My biggest fear is that I send off my single occupancy document, prove I am indeed living alone and then something drastic happens in year 4, for example, and my daughter is penalised...

There is a risk you could get caught out. Rules for SFE change. Currently they only ask for proof once and then ask if anything has changed every year. What happens if they start asking for proof for again at a later date and you still have financial ties with your wife and you haven't gone through with the divorce?

The penalty for your daughter could be not getting a degree if she has committed fraud, particularly if she has received a bursary from the university.

Have you also thought through the legal consequences of divorcing your wife? What happens if one of you passes away?

goakland3 Sun 23-Feb-20 20:47:14

@goingoverground Our recommendation was not to get divorced, but begin the initial proceedings, thus having a Decree Nisi. From what I'm told, this procedure can last as long as required, without us having to get divorced.

OP’s posts: |
lostinleaves Sun 23-Feb-20 20:52:34

I pay a ton of tax to keep all those students who are milking the system dry and will never pay back a penny.....

How is it milking the system dry if we are using it as it's designed? I will never pay back my student loans (>40k for 2 years) as I don't have a job which pays enough to start repayments (thank you local government) but that's not anything I've done wrong.

MillicentMartha Sun 23-Feb-20 21:02:32

A council tax bill showing single person discount should suffice. You don’t need to go to the lengths of a decree nisi. It’s very unusual for married people to have their finances so completely separate though. Do you go halves on eating out, etc?

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