Sheriff orders children of divorcing couple to attend state school

In a recently heard divorce case in Edinburgh Sheriff Court, the sheriff ruled that the couple’s children should leave their fee-paying school and attend state school. This is a very unusual step for a sheriff to take when the wellbeing of children are paramount in divorce proceedings.

The husband brought the divorce proceedings against his wife on the basis of her adultery. They had been married in 2003 and they separated in 2018. During their marriage, they had built up a number of inter-related interests in each other’s businesses which meant the financial picture was fairly convoluted.

On the contentious issue of the children’s education – the couple had two children from their marriage – the wife argued that her husband should pay the fees for their children’s private education. However, the husband argued that he could not afford to pay the school fees out of his income. He also proposed that the children attend two other private schools where the fees were not as expensive as the current private school. His wife rejected that proposal. The husband then suggested that they should apply for a bursary to allow them to continue to attend their current school – but his wife opposed this too.

As the wife offered no alternative to the husband paying the school fees at the current school, the husband argued that the only option available was for the children to attend state school.

The wife persisted in her argument that her husband should be ordered to pay the school fees out of his capital – but that would have meant selling the family home.

In her judgement, having heard all the evidence, Sheriff Stirling ordered that the family home be transferred into the husband’s name, in exchange for which, the husband should make a payment of £30,784.08 to the wife. In relation to the children, the sheriff made “a specific issue order directing that notice of termination of studies shall be given to Private School 1 forthwith in relation to the attendance there of the parties’ children Emily and Kate [not their real names]; and directing that the children shall commence attendance at State School 1 for the furtherance of their secondary education when term resumes after the mid-term holiday in October 2020”

The judgement is very lengthy, setting out all the reasoning behind Sheriff Stirling’s decision. You can read the judgement in full by clicking here.

Case name: X v X 2021 SC EDIN 32

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