Should they stay or should they go, now?

Marjha Golding-Evans talks university and understanding how your young person’s choices about going now, later, or not at all, may impact maintenance being paid.

2021 has, without doubt, been a rollercoaster of a year for both our young people, their teachers and their parents. Today (10 August 2021) is A-Levels results day, and in amongst the excitement, anxiety and decision-making, may be the question of what happens now about the financial support paid or received for a child.

You may be worried about what will happen if a child decides to defer their university start date for a year, or decides not to go at all, and what that can mean for your finances.

I pay maintenance; what happens now?

If you are a parent paying maintenance, you may be making those payments based on a Child Maintenance Service (or previous CSA) calculation. Those payments continue only so long as a child in under 20 and in full time secondary education of A-Level or equivalent; university is classified as tertiary education. That means if a child decides to go into further training like a BTEC or equivalent, financial support would continue to be paid based on the CMS/CSA calculation; but if they go to university or into work, those payments stop.

However, if you are paying maintenance through a Court Order (whether agreed or court directed) then those payments might continue; the trigger for when they stop will be set out in your Order and typically stop on either the child reaching 18 or ‘ending full-time tertiary education, whichever is the last to occur’. You might want to check back to see whether the Order is clear about it ending on a ‘first degree’, meaning that if your child goes on to do further degrees courses or a Masters, the payments may end.

If they defer starting their university course, then an Order which says payments continue until they finish that degree will need to continue to be paid, unless or until that Order is changed by agreement or a further Order.

I receive maintenance; what happens now?

If you receive child benefit or other welfare benefits for a child ending secondary education, then your young person’s choices now can have an impact on the support you might get. Your financial support might well end, depending on the arrangements you have in place and the choices your young person makes about types of secondary education.

If your child decides to begin work, it is likely that all financial support from your ex-partner/spouse would end, unless payments are made under a court order and wouldn’t end until they reach 21, for example. It is key to check the wording of the Order to see when the payments will end or whether you can rely on the drafting to suggest they must continue.

Should your child choose to defer starting university, then payments made under an Order will only continue if the wording references tertiary education; if they end based on age or secondary education, then payments are likely to end.

Keep Talking

Whether payments being made have been agreed between you and the other parent or not, then do broach the subject now; keeping an open dialogue and being frank about any challenges – whether that is keeping up payments or the cost of your young person remaining at home – can prevent the issue snowballing.

If you simply cannot reach an agreement about payments stopping, or continuing, then getting early legal advice is key. It may be that you need to apply to Court for the payments to be extended; you cannot do that once the Order has already expired, so early expert advice is key.

Click for more information on our Family services.