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Can I bring a court case for supporting DC's in higher education?

(14 Posts)
Miniminimus Sat 11-Nov-17 15:06:14

Hi, have been mulling this over for a while, can't find advice that matches my situation and I think I need to act soon. Hope this is not too much info...

I have 3 DC (19, 17 and 11) with Ex being father of all three. We lived together for 18 years but were never married. It was his decision to finish the relationship and leave the family. The children are fully resident with me, except oldest who is at uni. Ex pays minium maintenance for his income via CMS for the younger two. But he does this begrudgingly and will not support school trips or extras. He feels everything should be down to me because of the maintenance. He has recently married someone without children.

When eldest wanted to go to uni, Ex efused to help out financially, act as guarantor or go on the Student Finance application. I did that on my own and eldest got the full basic loan plus a grant for about £3,000 on top - due to my income level and still having younger DC as dependants. That was the last year of grants though and if my income stays the same, and the younger two go to uni, they will be offered that amount as a loan instead, on top of the basic. In fact my income might rise slightly as I won't have to reduce hours for childcare as youngest gets older. But that would probably decrease the amount of extra loan my middle DC for example, could borrow. I would also probably be assesed to make a financial contribution. Either way, their father is not contributing at all which seems wrong and it means the DC have to take on much more debt than if he was at home and his income assessed.

Ex now earns well over £50,000, has company car etc but refuses financial support beyond FE, and that only because CSA enforce it. So though he is very comfortably off, he is not a super high earner. There has never been a court case or order regarding maintenance because we were never married. He will not dicuss uni costs, wills or financial protection for the children or attend mediation.

Can anyone tell me whether I can tackle this legally? I have read that if I had a court order beforehand, I could have extended it, but I am not sure if it is too late to apply for one now. Or whether court is only possible if you were married? Not thinking of the oldest, he is almost finished, but for the younger two. I worry that this is limiting their aspiration as the 17 yr old is already saying he doesn't want to apply to uni because of the cost. I slso read that children can take parents to court themselves for support with HE but middle DC is very conflict -averse and would not do this. It would have to be me and I need to act in the next six months before he turns 18.

Thanks very much in advance for any advice or similar experiences.

cakeymccakington Sat 11-Nov-17 15:15:13

I'm no expert but I can't imagine a court ordering someone to pay towards uni costs.
It's sad he doesn't want to help, but ultimately it's his choice.
Your children are in the same situation as hundreds of others from low income families... they'll be fine. Nothing wrong with using a student loan and tbh who wants to feel beholden to someone who has been forced to pay for them?

Miniminimus Sat 11-Nov-17 16:03:07

Thanks McCake, I know lots of students are in the same position and they could borrow the money from the loan co if offered..
But I suppose to me the issue is that my DC do have a father with the means to support them and had he been living at home he would have done so. I'm looking for legal advice really, or experience from someone who has been in a similar position. Had we been married and maintenance settled in court, instead of through CSA/CMS, it's likely that support for higher education would have been added at the time - so he would have had to contribute. Is the fact we weren't married preventing me doing this? Or can I still take this up somehow?

I know I can go to a solicitor for an initial half hour of advice but feel I will be better prepared if I know what I'm asking for. Thanks again for any views.

GasLightShining Sat 11-Nov-17 18:35:43

If court application is allowed I presume DS would have to do it as he is now an adult.

Although parental income is used to assess the student loan parents are not under any obligation to support their children through university.

drspouse Sat 11-Nov-17 18:44:46

The younger DC might be worse off if their support was calculated based on his income but he then refused to pay. This happened to some friends of mine at Uni.

Miniminimus Sun 12-Nov-17 07:38:42

Thanks. I am not considering this for the oldest one, but for the younger two, currently 17.5 and 11 years. So I think I have 6 months in which to make an application. Does anyone know what's involved in an application for a court order for this? I don't know where to start

As drspouse says, I know if we didn't go through court and just put Ex's details on the student loan application as well as mine, then he would be assessed as needing to pay and DS would get lower loan. This could lead to problems as Ex likely not to pay.

That's why I'm interested in the court route, some sort of maintenance order...as children of parents who have been divorced can have. Is there such a possibility if parents were not married?

rockshandy Sun 12-Nov-17 07:48:05

I know if we didn't go through court and just put Ex's details on the student loan application as well as mine, then he would be assessed as needing to pay and DS would get lower loan.

You are looking at this wrong. His income would be assessed but he would be under no obligation to pay. None at all.

I can't advise you on the finer points, but in general I think that pursuing this is a waste of time and money. The ex has made his position clear, and annoying as it is, he really is under no obligations to support DC through uni.

Uni debt isn't like other debt and shouldn't be considered so. IMO it really is not a reason to not go to uni if that is the path the DC want to take.

Familylawsolicitor Sun 12-Nov-17 07:54:15

It's an application under schedule one of the Children Act 1989
If a child is over 18 they may apply in their own right.
You should crack on for your 17.5 year old as the court process can easily take longer than 6 months.

You apply on a Form A1
formfinder.hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/a1-eng.pdf

It's necessary to be signed off the requirement to consider mediation which can be a mediator writing to your ex and him refusing to attend, however given the time frame I wouldn't wait for that. You can be signed off by simply attending a Mediation information and Assessment Meeting and explaining to the mediator you your court form issued ASAP because of the right timescale.

However whilst waiting for a court date I highly recommend trying to engage your ex in discussions.

You should of course take legal advice about whether or not the application is likely to be successful before embarking on it.

Collaborate Sun 12-Nov-17 09:09:46

As ever I agree with familylawsilicitor and despair at those who don’t know the answer yet confidently assert the wrong one.

titchy Sun 12-Nov-17 11:35:27

Regarding the loan - your dcs are assessed on household income, not parental income. So putting his salary on the form is meaningless as they don't live with him.

Obviously the experts have commented on the legal position, but thought I'd mention it as you have misunderstood how the loan is calculated.

babybarrister Mon 13-Nov-17 15:41:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Miniminimus Tue 14-Nov-17 11:57:28

Thanks to everyone for your views - and in particular Familylawsolicitor as that is exactly the kind of practical advice I need to get started. I've read Form A1 and can see how much emphasis is put on mediation to resolve before court. I hope this happens here. I can't see a section to tick re. not attending a MIAM before sending in the form due to timescale, though I am about to read through again to make sure. I will book a mediation appointment anyway, but the form is so clear that it cannot be submitted without a MIAM having taken place, I'm worried about invalidating the application before I start. One problem may be that he has moved house and declined to give me the address. I would have to take a day off work visit the area (not local) and look at the electoral register to get this. So I hope I could tick the 'address not known box' and do the address investigation and first mediation meeting while the form is processing.

I am looking for a commitment from him based on annual P60 income (minus CMS maintenance paid)....resulting in whatever the student loan calculator says is payable if he were resident and assessable. I would be willing to do the same calculation on my salary (minus what the CMS payment would be if I were NRP as I am paying toward the general upkeep of the children as well.). And each commit to that so the children get the financial support they would have had if the split had not happened.

Collaborate Tue 14-Nov-17 13:34:59

You can get a MIAM from most mediators by ringing them and arranging a meeting, which some do on Skype.

Miniminimus Tue 14-Nov-17 13:35:55

Apologies for spelling errors by the way.. typing in a rush this morning and covertly finished off at work!

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