Family Lore Clinic: Is university full-time education?

Many financial orders on divorce use the term 'full-time education', usually to express a cut-off date ("until the youngest child shall cease full-time education"), either to indicate the duration of maintenance payments, or the date upon which the former matrimonial home should be sold. Sometimes the order is a little clearer, by stating whether it is full-time secondary or tertiary education that is intended.

Assuming that the order does not specify secondary education, the simple answer is that university would normally be considered full-time education. Of course, there may be university courses that are part-time, but an undergraduate course would usually be full-time.

As far as I am aware, 'full-time education' is not defined in a family law context, but HM Revenue and Customs does have a definition, which it uses for the purposes of child benefit and tax credits, and which a family court is likely to follow, if there were a dispute. The definition says that: Full-time education is education undertaken in pursuit of a course, where an average of more than 12 hours per week is spent during term time:
  • receiving tuition;
  • engaging in practical work;
  • receiving supervised study; or
  • taking examinations.
This does not include time spent on meal breaks or unsupervised study.

Obviously, most university courses would fit within this definition.

(As usual, if you require more details or specific advice, you should consult a specialist family lawyer.)