Samantha Newton, Family Law Associate Solicitor from Thrings, suggests that with the popularity of independent fee-paying schools on the up in Bath and the surrounds, you might be wondering what the options are for funding school fees – particularly in the case of separation.

Ask the school
Find out what the school can offer. Should you need to take your children out of private school, will the school waive the usual notice period? Are there any bursaries you can apply for? Some schools will offer discounts for paying fees in advance. If you agree to be jointly responsible for the fees, ask the school nance of ce to issue separate invoices – making clear how any extras are to be dealt with.

Coming to an agreement
Get a clear picture of your assets and work out if there
is enough money to create a school fees fund. If you are con dent that your income and assets will cover all your needs – such as financing two separate houses – seek to ring-fence the fund. If not, draw up an agreement laying out who will pay what going forward – not forgetting the extras. Ensure you get a solicitor to document your agreement in case one parent later changes their mind. If a parent’s financial circumstances change, remember they can apply to reduce the amount they are paying.

School fee orders
School fee payments are in addition to standard child maintenance obligations. If you separate and your children already go to private school, or there was a clear agreement that they would, it may be possible to get a court order requiring one or both parents to pay the school fees – depending on each of your nancial circumstances. If you cannot agree on whether the children should go to or stay in private education, the court can decide that too.

Financial advice
Whether your child is already in private school or you are simply considering options, taking early advice from a financial adviser goes a long way. There are a number of clever ways to maximise your savings whilst together. The relaxation of pension freedoms also means you can access tax free cash from pension funds as of 55 years of age. Whether pension money, savings, surplus income or otherwise, many advisers can now help prepare a cash ow forecast to project how best to realise, or invest, your cash to cover school fees.

Extended family
It may be that an extended family member is willing to help with school fees using their pension funds, savings or perhaps income from a trust fund. Whether a loan or part of their estate plans, it is important that relatives first take advice on what is tax efficient and take steps to safeguard the monies. This could mean setting up a school fees fund or trust, or formally documenting the agreement if the fees are to be paid back. It’s also worth noting that grandparents can make full use of grandchildren’s income tax allowances if they make provisions for them via a formal structure such as a trust or family investment company.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss your options in further detail, please contact Samantha Newton – Family Law Associate Solicitor 01225 340 175, email hidden; JavaScript is required