Talking about child maintenance

Talking about arrangements for children isn’t always easy, especially if you’re still dealing with the fall-out of separation. And talking about money can be particularly difficult. 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 child. 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 child.

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 the planning stages.

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

Even though your relationship with the other parent has ended, you’re still in the business of raising your child together. Try to talk to the other parent as you would a colleague, doctor or one of your child’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 child.

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 child.

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, you could get a professional mediator, or family lawyer to help you reach agreement. For more information about how mediation works, read About Mediation.

If a conversation isn’t going well, then end it as calmly as you can. But, make sure you arrange another meeting to try again at a later date.