Pushy Parents Delay Divorce


As primary school admissions open for the 2019 academic year, law firm JMW Solicitors says competition for places at top schools is causing parents to delay divorce for fear of losing homes in popular catchment areas.

The annual admissions process sees parents across the country scrambling to secure a place at top-rated primary schools, sometimes at any price, with rule breaking par for the course. Yet it’s also impacting parents’ happiness, with both husbands and wives choosing to stay put for fear of losing the family home and with it the prospect of a good education for their child.

In 2016, the Good Schools Guide wrote that UK state schools have improved so much that some private schools may go out of business. The 2019 Guide, published last week, showed that things have continued to improve, with church primaries challenging top fee-paying prep schools. However, while things are improving, the list of top flight state schools remains slim, meaning that desirable family homes within popular catchment areas can be hard to come by - and expensive. Homes close to popular schools cost on average £50,000 more.

Elspeth Kinder, Partner and Joint Head of Family Law at JMW Solicitors, said: “This is very much part of a wider thought process for parents who are considering divorce; both husbands and wives are often much more concerned with how their children will be affected, education often being a central concern.

“In recent years, competition has intensified for admission to top state schools - and for homes within the ‘right’ area as a result - leading to a rise in couples putting off divorce to avoid the sale of the family home. They experience feelings of intense guilt at the thought that no longer living within the right catchment area could dash their child’s hopes of admission to a particular school.”

She continued: “In my experience, parents’ worries about how their children will handle divorce are usually unfounded - when dealt with sensitively and with the utmost care, we find that children are incredibly resilient. In terms of school catchment, it is a real concern, but it’s something that is negotiated successfully in many cases, with the sale of the family home tempered by the requirement that a new home be found within the same area. The family home is usually the largest joint capital asset, so the judge will be focused on arriving at a solution that is fair to both parties, while taking the children’s best interests into account.

“It is possible to handle divorce constructively, with careful communication to limit the impact on children, while at the same time safeguarding their future - postponing the inevitable when a relationship has broken down very rarely ends well.”

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