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SPONSORED CONTENT: ABC? It’s easy as 123. What separated parents are responsible for when it comes to their child’s education. With Harper Macleod

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Amanda Masson
Amanda Masson

Amanda Masson is a partner and head of the family law team at Harper Macleod

As the schools return, my thoughts turn to education and opportunity. I was brought up in Burghead and attended Elgin Academy. Had it not been for June, the local librarian, and Mr Bennett, whose name will be familiar to many former Elgin Academy pupils, it’s unlikely I would be in the role I am today.

Leading the family law team at Harper MacLeod provides limitless opportunities for learning. Knowing the law is a given, but being able to practice within the locale in which I grew up is a privilege I had not anticipated when I left Elgin to study. My firm’s commitment to the north was strengthened by the assumption of my colleague Laura MacLean to partner. We are a close-knit team covering all aspects of family and child law, across Scotland.

Each and every one of us are committed to helping families achieve what they want to achieve, sometimes in situations in which the family unit is not functioning well and changes need to be made.

At this time of year we see an increase in enquiries about financial support for young people as they move through secondary and tertiary education. It can be difficult for separating parents, and indeed young people, to navigate the legislation around responsibility support.

Many young people will be thinking about heading off to college or university and perhaps taking a part-time job to help make ends meet.

In terms of Section 1 (5) of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 1985, parents have a legal obligation to support their children until they attain the age of 18, or 25 if they are “…reasonably and appropriately undergoing instruction at an educational establishment, or training for employment or a trade, profession or vocation”. This would include postgraduate courses, university degrees, college courses and apprenticeships.

The way in which financial support is claimed differs depending on the age of the child or young person in question. Where a child or children of separated parents is of school age, the resident parent can make a claim for financial support for the maintenance of that child or children via the Child Maintenance Service, payable by the non-resident parent . The extent of the liability is calculated by reference to a prescribed formula which takes into account the non-resident parent’s income and the level of residential contact between parent and child.

Where a young person is in further education or training then a claim for financial support must be made by the young person against their parents. Parents do not necessarily have to be separated for a young person to make a claim in Court for financial support.

There is no formula by reference to which the amount of support is determined. The young person first has to demonstrate a need for financial support. The parent(s) then need to consider whether the need is reasonable and whether they have the resources available to meet that need. The court would consider all parties’ needs, resources and earning capacities in order to reach a decision.

Cases in which a young person requires to raise Court proceedings against one or both parents in order to be able to undertake further education or training are difficult for all concerned not least because of the dynamics involved in such litigation. Clients tend to be concerned about not just the financial costs but the emotional, too.

A specialist solicitor can try to mitigate such strain by tendering strategic advice taking into account all factors to help a client find the method of dispute resolution best suited to their particular circumstances. For my part, I strive to provide clients with that same level of guidance and support which I received in pursuing my own education. Family lawyers are often described as the “ultimate distress purchase”. For me, being able to work with my northern colleagues to find the best possible solutions for our clients based in the locale which fostered my own education is a source of professional satisfaction in itself.

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