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No-court family mediation – your smoothest route to a divorce deal that keeps the children in school?

05th June 2017

How lovely to see cute little Prince George stealing the show at his Aunty Pippa’s wedding this spring. Come September, he is expected to attend Thomas’s Battersea, a London preparatory school where fees start at just under £6,000 per term.

Now you may gasp at the cost, but today’s reality is that many ordinary families are deciding to invest significant sums in a private education for their children – school fees are no longer paid exclusively by the royals or the rich and famous. For some families, this shift in attitude brings with it the need for budget compromises elsewhere, fewer holidays or cheaper cars for example, but it seems many couples these days consider these sacrifices worthwhile as the price of a top-quality education in an establishment of their choice.

But managing the expectation of continuing with private education at a time of divorce can be difficult. School fees may already be stretching the family budget, so consideration must be given as to whether they remain affordable after separation and into the future. Most parents are understandably reluctant to disrupt a child’s education and it may be that a premature move is out of the question during certain school years because of exam pressures. Nonetheless, many families will face difficult financial choices as a result of divorce, and balancing their ability to meet basic income needs against the desirability of a private education is not always easy.

Especially in these cases, turning to cost-effective family law mediation can make a real difference. Not only does mediation provide a safe forum in which to conduct a structured conversation leading to a pragmatic solution, but a professionally-trained mediator can also help keep parents focussed on the commercial reality of their situation compared with their more emotional reactions.

One of the first matters divorcing parents must look to is their monthly income budgets. It will help to consider expenditure needs in three categories: necessities (mortgage or rental payments, utilities, work-related travel costs and so on), non-essential necessities like mobile phones, cable television and other services that in this day and age we take for granted, and luxury items that we like to enjoy but could live without such as holidays, entertainment or social activities. In some cases it will become apparent that paying school fees is simply impossible but in others it may be that one or both parents could honour their commitment to maintaining their children’s private education by accepting lifestyle compromises.

Of course, some divorcing parents are unable to agree through mediation and, in these cases, having examined the family’s overall financial position the court may order parents to contribute to their children’s school fees.

However some couples may have sufficient assets that they are able to agree, with the help of mediation, to set aside a capital fund for the school fees – and this can be particularly effective if a child is in the last few years of secondary education and it is felt that a move to the local state school would have a detrimental effect.

Tina Day
Family lawyer and Resolution mediator
If you would like to know more about mediation as a family law option contact Tina Day, Head of George Ide’s family team, who is an experienced family lawyer and trained mediator. For a no-cost initial consultation, telephone 01243 786668 and ask for the family department or visit one of our Chichester offices in confidence.

Family Law, General, George Ide, News
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