Divorced Parents and School Fees
Divorced Parents and School Fees.
What happens when parents cannot agree on a school for their children.
What happens when a court is asked to decide about private schooling.
The parents couldn’t agree on where their son and daughter should go to high school.
They both had equal and shared parental responsibility.
Ms Stewart wanted her children to go to expensive private schools.
The problem was that she and her former husband could not afford the $50,000 in annual fees.
She then went to the Federal Circuit Court to get an order that the children be enrolled in specific single-sex private schools.
The court then had to determine what orders it will make in relation to the divorced parents and school fees
The court heard that if both children attended private schools, the yearly fees alone would be $50,000 a year. This means it would cost upwards of $300,000 to put the children through school.
The father of the children said they simply could not afford it.
In an affidavit, Ms Stewart said her weekly income was $370 from Centrelink and $491 in child support. She also had a $64,523 HECS debt and owed $130,000 to a family member.
She said that he “should be able to pay 60 per cent of those fees if he reduces the amount of money that he spends on his wife’s three children on things such as overseas holidays, the latest electronics and clothing etc”.
If an application is made to a court having jurisdiction under the Child Support Act for a departure order in relation to a child support assessment, the Court may make an order if it is satisfied that one or more of the grounds for making a departure order would be just and equitable taking into account the child, the child’s carer entitled to child support and the paying parent.
In the recent decision of the Family Court of Australia in Stewart & Stewart  FamCAFC 67, Judge Stephen Coates ruled that the children should attend a government high school. He stated that they would not be disadvantaged as the state provides “a capable education system”.
“The mother said she could afford 40 per cent of the fees. I do not see she has proven her case,” he said.
“If the mother responsibly handles the situation for the child, even though such an order would be a great disappointment to her”.
He said, it “may be more of a disappointment to her than to the child”.
Ms Stewart appealed the decision and the Family Court dismissed Ms Stewart’s appeal for lack of merit. The Court ordered her to pay the costs of the failed appeal.
Principal of Justice Family Lawyers, Hayder specialises in complex parenting and property family law matters. He is based in Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Communications from UTS.