Private School Fees, A Big Child Maintenance Issue

Child Support and Private School Fee Disputes

As a parent, if you have a higher level of income, you will be obligated to pay a percentage of your income to support your children. Typically, financial support for a child is determined by an assessment carried out by the Child Support Agency, which is based on the formulas set out in the Child Support Assessment Act.

The amount of child support payable is capped regardless of how high your income is. For example, the maximum amount of child support payable for a child under the age of 13 is $21,733 and the maximum payable for a child over the age of 13 is $27,077. Child support is not designed to provide children with a luxurious lifestyle but rather a reasonable lifestyle whereby all needs are met. Such an amount of child support would be adequate for the majority of families. However, a substantial minority of parents choose to incur expenses that far exceed this maximum, making child support insufficient.

Private schooling, especially with Melbourne private school’s fees being substantial,  is a popular choice for many families who are trying to give their child the best chance of educational success, with many now paying in excess of $30,000 per child per annum.

The question of who pays for private schooling can be a contentious issue for couples considering it.

Whether or not you and your previous partner were sending your children to private schools, or intended to send them to a private school, is generally the decisive factor as to whether your former partner will be required to contribute to a child’s private education or not. If there was never any agreement it is unlikely that paying for private education would be ordered. However, this won’t always be the case.

If you and your partner did previously agree to privately educate your children you can seek a ‘departure order’ to vary the amount of child support payable, if there are special circumstances and if the new rate is just, equitable and otherwise proper. In such special circumstances, where a child is being cared for, educated or trained in the manner expected by his or her parents, a Court can to make an order for a parent to pay private school fees.

The case of Seymour v Seymour [2011] FamCAFC 97 decided that a high income earning father was required to pay for his children’s private school fees because he agreed in the past. However, he was not required to meet the expenses of school uniforms, books or stationery. These expenses would be incurred regardless of the school attended and so would be covered by the child support assessment. The husband’s liability was thus limited to tuition fees, reasonable excursions and levies and medical insurance costs.

In summary, if you and your former partner had intended for your child to attend a private school and your former partner is now refusing, you have the right to seek a departure from the administrative assessment prepared by the Child Support Authority.

If you require any assistance concerning child support departure applications we would be happy to assist you. For more information on what you can expect in terms of legal expenses, you might find our post on ‘How much does a family lawyer cost?‘ useful. When you’re ready, contact Rowan Skinner & Associates, Family Lawyers in Northcote and Clifton Hill.

In addition, feel free to check our latest blog about what is the real cost of a divorce for more information.


Rowan Skinner

About Rowan Skinner

Rowan Skinner is a highly skilled family lawyer with over 35 years of experience across various legal roles and jurisdictions. Rowan specialises in resolving family law disputes such as divorce, financial settlements, child custody and domestic violence cases. Through his diverse and extensive experience, Rowan has a deep understanding of the complexities and nuances involved in family law. Rowan is a skilled negotiator and litigator who follows a compassionate and client-focused approach which prioritises helping you navigate what can be an emotional and challenging time.