Thousands of students across Scotland are shortly set to embark upon or return to further or higher education and although this is often seen as rite of passage, for many the cost of funding this often brings anxiety for parents and students alike. 

Faye Donald considers some of the questions surrounding this area of the law:

  • What is the law?

The Family Law (Scotland) Act 1985 provides that a parent has a duty to provide financial support to a child up to the age of twenty five if they are “reasonably and appropriately undergoing instruction at an educational establishment or training for employment or for a trade profession or vocation.”

  • Does this only apply to parents who are separated or have divorced?

No, the student could raise a court action for financial support against either or both parents if they fail to meet their obligations.

  • I am a step parent.  Am I exempt?

Not necessarily.  If the student has been accepted by you as a “child of the family”, you may find yourself on the receiving end of an application for financial support.

  • The student is eligible for a student loan.  Am I still obliged to pay?

Yes.  This does not affect the parent’s obligation to pay but may affect the amount of support which has to be paid.

  • How is the amount of support calculated?

The court considers the needs and resources of all parties ie the student and the parents. If the student’s income (such as any grant / loan and any income they earn) exceeds their outgoings, it is unlikely an award for financial support would be made, however, each case will be determined on its own merits.

  • If my child is living with my ex-spouse/partner whilst studying, do I continue to pay maintenance directly to them?

No.  When your child leaves secondary school, the obligation to pay your ex-spouse/partner ceases and payments, having regard to the needs and resources test, should be made directly to your child.

  • My child could live with me at home while studying but refuses to do so.  Am I still obliged to provide support?

You may have a defence to an application for financial support if it can demonstrated that you have offered the child the opportunity to live at home but this will only be successful if it is reasonable for them to do so and factors which will be taken into account include the length of the commute to the educational establishment and family circumstances generally.  If, for example, you are estranged from the child, it is unlikely that this argument would be successful.

If you are a parent or a child in this situation and would like some advice regarding your rights and obligations, we will be happy to help. Contact us on 01224 332400 or at

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