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Do my daughters qualify for ‘home fees’ at UK universities?

We have twin daughters in their GCSE year who might expect to go to a UK university in two to three years. We want to ensure it can be shown we are “ordinarily resident in the UK” so they qualify for home fees. In 2014 we were posted to India by my company on a short-term contract of three years which has twice been extended, once due to Covid. Our daughters are at school in India. I have my own private limited business in the UK and continue to pay UK tax on earnings from the company and from our UK house which is rented out. The UK remains very much our home. How can we be sure we meet the ordinarily resident requirements?

Jonathan Hill, a manager in the Sheffield office of Fragomen, a law firm, with more than 10 years of immigration experience, says falling within “home” fee status and avoiding the payment of international tuition fees will be a significant consideration when applying for higher education study in the UK.

Headshot of Jonathan Hill, a manager at Fragomen
Jonathan Hill, a manager at Fragomen © Charles Sturge

Home fee status is assessed and allocated by the UK university by looking at the applicant’s immigration status and deciding whether they are deemed ordinarily resident. There is guidance for universities, but this may be interpreted differently depending on the institution. However, generally speaking, the following approach is taken.

First, the student would generally need to be deemed “settled” in the UK on the first day of the academic term. To be considered such, the student must hold an immigration status that does not impose time restrictions on their length of stay in the UK. This could be by holding a UK or Irish passport, having Indefinite leave to remain, right of abode or settled status under the EU registration scheme.

Second, the student should also be considered “ordinarily resident”, To determine this the university will assess if the student has resided in the UK for the past three years, and whether they would be resident if they were not pursuing study. If the answer to either is no, it’s possible that they wouldn’t be considered ordinarily resident, meaning that it is unlikely home fee status would be applied. An international student with limited leave to remain, with an expiry date attached to their UK immigration status is unlikely to be entitled to home fee status.

A similar approach to the above is also used by Student Finance England, Student Finance Wales, and Student Awards Agency Scotland to assess whether the student is entitled to financial help with their studies in the UK.

Can I negotiate a fairer divorce settlement?

My husband and I are divorcing. His father is elderly and my husband will receive a considerable inheritance when my father-in-law dies. It doesn’t seem right that our financial settlement will see me subsidise my husband when in a year or two he will be far wealthier. Is there anything I can do to get a fairer settlement?

Emily Brand, partner at Boodle Hatfield, a law firm, says the family courts increasingly distinguish between “separate/non-matrimonial” and “matrimonial assets” when determining how assets should be divided between a couple following a divorce.

Headshot of Emily Brand, partner at Boodle Hatfield
Emily Brand, partner at Boodle Hatfield

Matrimonial assets are considered to be those built up by the couple during the marriage, such as the increase in value of a family home or a joint business venture. The starting point for the division of matrimonial assets is equality. For example, each spouse should receive 50 per cent of the net value.

“Separate assets” are those which one spouse might have owned before the marriage (such as shares in a public-listed company) and/or inherited and/or been gifted to them by a member of their family either before, during the marriage or shortly after the separation. As the name implies, these are likely to be kept separate (subject to what I say below) and will not be divided up as part of the matrimonial pot.

Beware though, separate assets can be converted into matrimonial assets if they have been mingled. For example, if you have used an inheritance to purchase a family home in your joint names, this asset might still be considered matrimonial even though it is derived from a separate asset.

In your case, your ex-husband’s expected inheritance (as and when it arrives) is likely to fall into the category of separate or non-matrimonial assets and by that principle would not be available for division. Added to that is the fact that it sounds as though a settlement will be reached before your father-in-law dies, making it potentially easier for a judge to disregard it.

That said, if the inheritance is likely to be substantial, the court may consider it is as a resource which your husband is likely to receive in the foreseeable future and which as such could be taken into account. However, given that your father-in-law is still alive and considerable monies might need to be spent on his care in the latter stages of his life, a court might be reluctant to assume that your husband’s expectation will materialise in its entirety. There is also the risk that your father-in-law might fall out with his son and disinherit him, in which case it might be unfair for your husband to receive less than you from the matrimonial assets.

The most likely approach is that as a first step the court will look at whether an equal division of the matrimonial assets meets your needs assessed to reflect the standard of living enjoyed by you during your marriage. If such a division fails to meet these needs, there may be a departure from an equal division of the matrimonial asset. This indirectly takes into account your husband’s expected inheritance.

It may seem unfair, however, the courts tend to be reluctant to divide up assets which have not been generated during the marriage except in the case of need.

The opinions in this column are intended for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice. The Financial Times Ltd and the authors are not responsible for any direct or indirect result arising from any reliance placed on replies, including any loss, and exclude liability to the full extent.

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I have not had to touch my pensions savings so far during my retirement, and I am now considering whether I could simply pass the money in my pension directly to my grandchildren. Are there any catches in doing this, or better ways to do it to ensure they get as much of the pension pot as possible?

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