Private School Fees Loom Large in Doctor's Divorce

Anyone who has a child at private school will realise how very expensive that can be. However, in one unusual divorce case, the Court of Appeal has ruled that a judge took premature account of the burden of school fees when dividing marital assets between a doctor and his ex-wife.

The judge had partitioned the former couple’s assets in such a way as to achieve equality as far as possible and to meet the parties’ needs. One of the orders he made was that the wife’s £1,000 monthly allowance from her husband should roughly double on their daughter leaving her private secondary school.

That provision was designed to ensure that the saving on education fees was split evenly between the parents. However, in upholding the husband’s appeal against that part of the order, the Court found that it was wrong to view the cessation of school fees as a 100 per cent net gain to the family finances.

It was likely that the child would require further financial support after leaving school and the judge had erred in basing his calculations purely on the size of the previous year’s school fees. The offending part of the order was deleted; however, the Court emphasised that it would remain open to the wife to seek an appropriate increase in her allowance after her daughter’s school days were over.