Q My ex-partner and I split up five years ago, when our children were aged 10 and 12. He’s been paying child support through the child maintenance service, but he’s recently stopped paying for our eldest saying she’s now over 16. But she’s still at school doing A-Levels and is wanting to go to university. Surely he needs to keep paying? My friend told me her ex-husband had to keep paying for their kids whilst they were at school and university.

A The first thing to say is that there might be a different answer depending on whether you were married or living together. If you were married and divorced, then you may have a remedy under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, but this would not apply if you had never married, and your remedy would be under Schedule 1 of the Children’s Act 1989. That might be why your friend has had a different outcome.

The Child Maintenance Service replaced the Child Support Agency in 2016 and gradually CSA cases are being transferred to the CMS. The CSA was introduced in 1993, and took away the Court’s jurisdiction to make child maintenance provision in England and Wales, except in a very few specified circumstances. Essentially, the exceptions are where the child is disabled, or where there are ‘special circumstances’ or where the child has been treated as a child of the family but your ex is not in fact the father.

It is also possible for you both to have agreed child support/maintenance in your divorce consent order.

It sounds like you may need to take some legal advice to see if there is anything that can be done, and I would need to know a lot more detail. If there had been a previous agreement or consent order I would need to see a copy of it. Most consent orders are drafted to include provision for child support to continue until the child has completed ‘full-time tertiary education’ which is generally considered to include school, university first degree, but may include some other courses, and possibly even apprenticeships. So if you had such an order, then your ex needs to continue funding this. However, if he has been paying through the CMS, it makes me think that there may not be a consent order.

If you were married you may have a remedy under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, but your question is phrased in such a way that it makes me think you may have been unmarried parents.

If that is the case, your only remedy may be under Schedule 1 of the Children’s Act 1989, and here you may run into difficulties. My understanding is that your child will need to be under 18 years old to bring such a claim. However, it may be possible for your daughter to bring her own claim?

It could put your daughter in a tricky situation. I wonder whether in the first instance setting out your concerns in a letter to your ex might be the way forward? It might also be a good idea to suggest family mediation to avoid court proceedings and costly legal interventions, and see if an agreement could be reached, particularly if your ex hears that his own daughter is facing real financial hardship as a result of his payments ceasing.

* Ruth Hawkins is a Family law specialist & partner with Turpin Miller