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Clare, Family Solicitor
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 34885
Experience:  I have been a solicitor in High Street Practise since 1985 and have specialised in Family Law for the last 10 years
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Hello there. I had a "clean break" divorce in 2003. My ex

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Hello there. I had a "clean break" divorce in 2003. My ex husband left in 2003 when my son was 3 and my daughter was 8. He is paying maintenance for both children until they leave university education and maintenance for me until my son is 17. At the age of 10 my son was diagnosed with Autism (something my ex husband has done his best to deny). However now my son is statemented, with a diagnosis of Autism, OCD, and other related conditions. He is in maintstream school, with a lot of support, but I have never been able to work full time because of my son. I get called from work to collect him, have to take him to his appointments and am his carer. (There is no-one else to look after him, the nearest relative is 100 miles away) and because he is violent, the police are involved. There is currently no respite care available for him. I am trying to hold onto my job (working with special needs in a school) but it is getting much harder. I need my job because it gives me some sense of self worth and "adult" time which I don't get at home.
The professionals are now saying that they cannot see him holding down a job because of his anxiety and I don't know what the future holds for us. (He can't be left on his own at all).
My question is, how successful would I be if I went back to court to ask my husband to continue to pay MY PART of the maintenance (£500 per month) until my son was 21? If it finishes when my son is 17, I know we will not able to manage. He certainly will still be in education then. I think that the courts at the time thought, that when my children were grown up I would be able to have built a career and support myself (and that certainly was the plan) but no-one knew that my son would be as disabled as he is. My husband would fight this tooth and nail, but he is very wealthy and I have no partner who could help out. My son's condition has severely limited my earning potential and I can't see it being any easier in the coming years. What do you think? As it was a "clean break" would the courts be able to do anything, or am I stuck with what was agreed?
Many thanks Jill Harvey
Thank you for your question.
My name is Clare
I will do my best to help you but I need some further information first.
What is the exact wording of the order regarding your maintenance?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

(1) To the petitioner £400 per calendar month during the joint lives of the parties or until her re-marriage or until Aiden reaches 17 years or ceases full-time secondary education (whichever is the later) or further order whereupon the Petitioner's claim for periodical payments shall stand dismissed and the petitioner shall not be entitled to make any further application under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 S23(1) (a) or (b) in relation to the marriage.

(2) for the benefit of Abigail and Aiden the sum of £400 per calendar month each until they attain the age of 17 years or cessation of their respective full time education (to include tertiary education) which ever later, upon each child attaining 18 Respondent will pay the funds directly to the child.

(3) Save as aforesaid all claims of the Respondent and the Petitioner for financial provision, property, adjustment orders shall stand dismissed and neither party shall be entitled to make any further application in relation to the marriage for an order under Part 11 of the matrimonial causes act 1973.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Clare did you receive the information I sent?

Thank you for that
is it likely that your son will in fact stay in secondary education until he is 19?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

He finishes school at 16 then will have to go to college for two years. I don't know if college qualifies as secondary education? but either way he has to stay in full time education until he is 18.

Given his special needs are you expecting him to remain there as long as possible (until he is 19)
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I would encourage him to stay for as long as possible as he will need life skills training as well as academic training, but the decision ultimately is up to him. With the amount of school refusal I get, I really don't know how long he will remain in education. I believe he is entitled to stay until he is 25 (once he has the statement) but whether he will, is really anyone's guess.

The Order says 17 or the end of secondary education whichever comes LATER.
College is indeed secondary education - and most Specials needs children in fact stay in Education until they are at least 19 sometimes 20
On that basis you have little to worry about for the time being as you are in fact covered for the foreseeable future
IN general terms yes you can apply to the court to extend the maintenance period, but you would first have had to access all possible benefits available to your son if he is unable as an adult to work
I hope that this is of assistance - please ask if you need further details
Clare and other Family Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hello Clare, yes I can see where you are coming from and thanks for your reply. I guess my maintenance will continue while Aiden is in college education. Fingers crossed! x

You are most welcome - I hope all goes well