Talking about money might feel like the last thing you want to do, especially if your relationship with the other parent is strained. But, in the long run, having this conversation now could mean you end up working together as parents rather than against each other.
Here are some suggestions to help you discuss child maintenance with your child’s other parent.
Tip 1 - Put the needs of your child first
Discussions about child maintenance work best when both parents are willing to work together for the sake of their children. So, it’s important that you put your emotions to one side, be open and honest, and forget about scoring points. The most important thing is to focus on what’s best for your children.
Tip 2 - Plan your conversation in advance
Think about where and when you want to talk. Some people prefer somewhere private like their home, while others prefer somewhere more neutral like a café. Try to find a convenient time when you can both concentrate on the conversation – collection or drop off times are not usually the best times, and neither is late at night when you’re both tired.
Think about what you want to say. Parents often find it helps to make a list in advance.
Our discussion guide may help you with this.
Tip 3 - Tackle one issue at a time
Use your list to stay on track during your conversation, and focus on ways to solve problems instead of thinking about who is to blame.
Tip 4 - Be professional
While your relationship with the other parent has ended, you’re still in the business of raising your children together. Try to talk to the other parent as you would a colleague, doctor or one of your children’s teachers. And don’t drag other people into it – phrases like ‘Karen agrees with me’ or ‘your brother always said you were like that’ won’t help.
Tip 5 - Be prepared to compromise
Successful discussions are all about compromise. The chances are you both want what’s best for your child. So you might be able to reach a compromise faster than you expect. Compromise usually involves a little bit of give and take on both sides. And remember – always keep the focus on what’s best for your children.
Tip 6 - Try to find some common ground
Many parents find it easier to have a discussion when they start off by talking about the issues that they both agree on, even if they are low priorities.
Tip 7 - Remember that no-one’s perfect
Accept the other parent for who they are. Most parents have good intentions at heart, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. And like all of us, they sometimes make mistakes. Again –it might not seem like it, but they probably want what’s best for your child just as much as you.
Tip 8 - Listen
Concentrate on what each other is saying and don’t interrupt. Ask questions once the other person has finished speaking and check that you’ve understood what the other parent means.
Tip 9 - Choose your words carefully
Don’t use phrases that sound like an accusation, like ‘you never…’ or ‘you always…’ – sweeping statements can turn a conversation into an argument. Do be specific about what you are asking for and what you are prepared to do yourself. Remember successful discussions are all about compromise, and it helps if you focus on what’s best for your children.
Tip 10 - Ask for help if you need it
If you still find the idea of discussing child maintenance overwhelming, you could ask a friend or relative to act as a ‘mediator’ to help you talk things through, or simply act as a messenger. Make sure it’s a person you both trust and someone who can stay calm and neutral. Or, a professional family mediator or family lawyer could help you to reach agreement.
If a conversation isn’t going well, then end it as calmly as you can. But arrange another meeting to try again at a later date.
To help you, we have produced a discussion guide which accompanies the steps below.