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Who pays the school fees if Mum and Dad divorce?

TV Presenter Nick Knowles is perhaps best known for hosting long-running BBC show DIY SOS, although he has been the face of a long list of other shows as well. He and estranged wife Jessica Moor, who only married in September 2012,  are now locked in a “ bitter divorce battle”, the Daily Mail reports, and the latest bone of contention is reportedly school fees.

According to the paper, in the midst of contentious claim and counter-claim, Jessica has asked for an additional £2,000 a month, on top of the maintenance she already receives, to cover the cost of their three year-old son’s education. Mr Knowles is reported to be unhappy about the request, and to have said he would pay the money directly to their son’s school rather than to Jessica.

Disputes about school fees are common when couples considering private education go their separate ways or those with children already there split up. English divorce law does include provisions for the payment of fees, explains Stowe Family Law Managing Partner Emma Newman.

“The Court has the power to make an order for a parent to pay or make a contribution towards school fees. Where the parents are married that power comes from the Matrimonial Causes Act.”

Agreements made between the parents, before or after separation, are the decisive factor, she continues.

“In making a decision the Court will consider the manner in which the child is currently or was expected to be educated. If the child is not yet being educated privately, it is far more likely that a court will make a school fees order if there is a clear agreement that the child will attend an independent school.”

This applies to Mr Knowles and his estranged wife.

“In this case it is key that Jessica Moor and Nick Knowles visited the school and enrolled their son  together.  It is also relevant that Nick’s three older children have all been educated privately as it is generally considered appropriate for a child to be treated in the same way as their siblings.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Alexandra Power says:

    The statement that “Mr Knowles is reported to be unhappy about the request, and to have said he would pay the money directly to their son’s school rather than to Jessica” clearly establishes that he’s not actually unhappy at the request itself, but at the payment being made directly to the mother.

    He has agreed to make that additional payment directly to the School.

    I fail to see what the problem is for such a perfectly reasonable and sensible request and, indeed, if the mother intends those additional funds are allocated specifically for the purposes of school fees, then she, along with everyone else, should be satisfied.

    Who actually benefits from such nonsense which only incurs the wasting of personal funds from legal and court fees!

    She should be made to cover his costs.

    I really don’t know what’s the matter with some parents when it involves their child(ren). I just despair for the child (ren) involved.

    I’m not a solicitor but, if I were, there’s no amount of money in the World which would coerce me into the emotional minefield of Family Law.

    I’ve no idea how those professionally involved in it manage to remain sane!
    (*Comment moderated)

  2. Andrew says:

    I am struggling to see any reason why she should disagree with him paying the fees directly. Can anyone enlighten me?
    On a related topic: a relative of mine had to threaten litigation to make his children’s school send a copy of their school reports to him as well as to their mother. By email, so not even the cost of a stamp and a few pages go copying. Mother said the reports were none of his business and the head-teacher “did not want to get involved”. Dreadful.

  3. Robin Van Wyk says:

    Divorces could be problematic especially if you have children and that is what I learnt from this write-up, which clearly specifies the separation between Nick Knowles and Jessica Moor. Who would pay the school fees? Well, that needs to be settled through many agreements as can be concluded from here.

  4. Adele Ainsworth says:

    Please could someone advise? I have this agreed and legally binding in my Consent Order from 2016:

    The Husband shall pay the children’s school fees and all agreed extras appearing on the school bill at such schools as the children of the marriage shall from time to time attend by agreement between the parties.

    My ex partner is stating that he is only responsible for the school fee’s and not the extras… and we have been paying the extras jointly for the past 4years… however I have maintained (as has my solicitor) that he is responsible for extras – if it is billed by the school) to which I agree. However he is adamant that it is not…

    He is a very very high earner and I am not and I only feel that he needs to take responsibility for what he agreed… Yet he is not trying to use this against me…..

    It is stressful and upsetting and i just would like clarification before I look at taking the matter further with mediation or to the courts? Could anyone advise? Many thanks

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Adele.
      Thank you for your enquiry. I have passed this to on to our Client Care Team who will be in touch. Best wishes.

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