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Money and child maintenance

Your separation may not go as smoothly as either you or your ex had planned, expected or wished. Money matters in particular are often an area of dispute. Lack of agreement over the financial details can draw out the separation process and add to your emotional strains.

Money and child maintenance

It’s also common for disagreements about money to reappear many months or years after the initial split – and long after you thought you’d reached an agreement. For example, maybe your circumstances change, or you need to ask for more money to look after your children. These matters can re-open old wounds, and even set you back from moving on.

In all cases of financial dispute it can help if you can first talk matters through with your ex.

You can find information about financial arrangements and your legal rights when you separate on the MoneyHelper and Citizens Advice. You may also find Wikivorce useful.

One of the things parents struggle with when they’re separating is money and who pays for what. Sometimes the issues of seeing the children and arranging financial support get blurred. It can help to manage the time that each parent spends with their children and the financial arrangements as separate issues.

It may be that you’re so angry or your children’s other parent is so angry  that you need some help to sit down together and discuss what’s fair and manageable. There may be other reasons too why these are difficult matters to sort.

A written agreement is often the result of good discussions where both parents lay their cards on the table. You can download an agreement form at the end of this article. The form is simple to fill in, but may not be to agree. Your unique set of circumstances are only known to you. If your children are going to continue a similar life to the one they had before the separation some serious thinking and planning will need to be done. Changes are inevitable - and perhaps sacrifices too.

Money and child maintenance


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Money and child maintenance

Making a child maintenance arrangement

Making maintenance arrangements for your children is best managed in a business-like way. These points may help you:

  • Find the right time and place to talk. Remember, it may take more than one conversation to find some middle ground.
  • Work out what your children needs. Think about their everyday lives and also things like school holidays, school trips, sports equipment and special needs, Then there are school dinners, clothing, shoes, food and, where relevant, a roof over their head.
  • Decide how you’ll share the costs. Remember there’s no right or wrong, just what you’re both willing to agree to. Sometimes it can help to think, “How would that have been paid for if you were still together”.
  • It can help to write everything down so that you can both see what you’ve agreed. There is a form that can help with this.
  • Do it and review it. You can always talk again if either of your circumstances change. Children’s lives, activities and needs do change. You could agree to review your agreement after an agreed time.

Talking about your child maintenance arrangements

Think about all discussions you have together in a more structured way, that means having an opening, middle and an end.  Remember that “I would like” and “it would help us both if” rather than “you never” or “you always” usually keep any conflict out of the discussions. Write down answers to the following questions;


What are you going to say? How will you word it? And what will you call your child maintenance arrangement?

You might find that starting a conversation about money is easier by acknowledging that this may be difficult for both you. e.g. ”this is hard but we can do it”.

Put a time boundary around each discussion - an hour is a long time when you may both have a lot to think about


It is likely you’ll have a good idea about how you and your ex get stuck when you talk about difficult things.

List the ‘behaviours’ you notice in yourself and your ex when you’ve disagreed in the past.

What will you do differently for each of these behaviours in order to encourage co-operation between you both? This may mean making some sacrifices. Remember you are not trying to agree things for yourself when making a child maintenance agreement, only trying to agree things as parents of your children.

Have good information about financial commitments for the children, if you are unsure, agree to check it out and bring to the next discussion.


Will you agree anything today? Or will you need to make arrangements to talk again another time?

What will you go away and change about your ideal view the financial arrangements so that when you talk again you will have something different to offer?

Content originally produced for What Next? The Parent’s Guide to Separation © Copyright DWP 2015

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  • Agreement builder - Children

    The process of answering the questions in each agreement builder should help you consider what outcomes are best for your children and both of you. They can form a useful starting point when discussing your situation with your ex-partner or a legal representative such as a solicitor.

    agreement builder
  • Motivation checker - Children

    How you’re going to be effective co-parents apart is one of the most important things you’ll need to figure out. It can be one of the hardest issues – very emotive. This tool aims to give you a head start to managing this well. It will help you explore your own motivations and emotions, and be curious about where your ex may be coming from and what lies behind their ideas.

    Child eating cereals
  • Children's living costs

    Use this tool to do some basic calculations on day to day costs for your child/ren. This will help you when planning your next steps.

    children living costs

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