Usually child maintenance is dealt with by agreement and, in the absence of an agreement, the Child Support Agency (CMEC/CSA) will produce an assessment up until a child’s 19th birthday (provided he or she is in full time education).

Many parents then feel that the obligation to financially support a child becomes optional and, perhaps, one to be negotiated directly with the child. That is not the case.

The Court has the power to make child maintenance awards where CMEC is unable to do so, and that includes making awards for the benefit of a child in full time education or training.

The increase in tuition fees and the cost of living has had the inevitable consequence of causing friction between some separated parents and their student “children”. To some extent, this is cushioned by student loans, but these are not likely to be sufficient, are a long term burden on the child and may be unnecessary depending on the financial position of the parents.

Before tuition fees hit the £9,000 mark, applying to Court to extend child maintenance payments was fairly uncommon as a result of the financial costs attached to the application. With tuition fees running at punitive levels, compounded by the cost of living, more parents are contemplating these applications in the realisation that the Courts do have the power to extend maintenance to the end of university degree or vocational training course.