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If you are a dad who pays maintenance...?

(17 Posts)
pickyourbrain Wed 27-Apr-11 14:53:19

Do you pay the CSA guidelines? Or less? or More? Why?

If you pay more how would you react to your new partner asking you not to?

Situation is: I am in a very happy relationship. My DP has a DD (12) with his ex wife whom he has been divorced from for 4 years. We met 6 months after. We have lived together for 3 years. We have his DD half of the time and I have a DD who lives with us 10 days out of 14.

We both work full time. He earns a bit more than me.

His ex wife works 16 hours a week in a minimum wage job (through choice, she has been offered promotions and more hours but chooses not to take them) their DD is at secondary school so there is no child-led reason for her lifestyle choice.

He pays twice the reccommended CM amount. I was always fairly happy with this as I thought it showed dedication to his DD which I admire. However, over the years it has become apparent that this money is not spent on the child as she often comes to us when she needs things and DP pays for half of (eg.) school uniform (etc.) as well as the maintenance.

we are getting to the point where it is clear we are in this relationship for the long haul. I am on his pension, growing old together has been discussed and we want to save for the deposit for a house. Marriage not on the cards as such yet however.

So my issue is, although we can manage on what we have - I have an overwhelming feeling that I am being 'mugged' off because I am working really hard (both in my employment and also in actual care for mine and their child) (and being a bloody good girlfriend too! - home cooked meals every night, nookie on tap - ;)) and yet he is handing money over to her every month out of choice rather than either spending on his DD, spending on himself, or using it to save for the future of our family...

Any insight in to why he is (in my mind) choosing his ex over his life here in our home??!!!!

I want to ask him to stop, but I don't want him to think I'm trying to stake some claim on his money. I couldn't care less if he wanted to spend it on spionsoring rhinos to be honest - I just don't want her to be his priority anymore... is that wrong?

(It's not for the benefit of his child as she is here half of the time and has everything she needs. If he paid his ex less she would have to get a proper job, so his DD wouldnt go without)

pickyourbrain Wed 27-Apr-11 14:58:25

Hmm... I just noticed how often people come on this board... sad !!!

PegsOnTheJewelsOfTheCrown Wed 27-Apr-11 15:03:29

Try Step Parenting

It is busy...

grin

pickyourbrain Wed 27-Apr-11 15:04:45

Tee hee, thanks! I guess I wanted a man's opinion grin

WibblyBibble Tue 03-May-11 10:59:59

Yes, you are wrong. He was with her first; his responsibility to her and his first daughter comes before his relationship with you; you chose to have a relationship with him knowing they existed. It's none of your business what job she does (in addition to looking after his child), that's up to her. How easy do you think it is to 'get a proper job' at the moment, anyway? Have you read a newspaper recently? You know about the economy being screwed, right?

pickyourbrain Thu 05-May-11 17:32:57

Wow what a response... assuming so much... and ignoring so much as well.. You will note that we have their DD with us for HALF OF THE TIME... so no, she is not 'looking after his child' she is looking after their child half of the time as does he.

Secondly I am a 30 year old women who has been in the world of work since the age of 16. I read the papers and yes I am aware it isn't easy to get a job. She has been offered full time work where she is employed on many occassions but chooses to work 16 hours a week as it means she gets the maximum money (i.e. benefits and income) for the minimum hours... and no, it isnt so she can spend more time with her child as she actually chooses to work one of the 2 days over the weekend when she could be spending time with her child in favour of not working while the child is at school... she has been offered school hours as well so if it were a case of not wanting to work while her child was at home that would be do able.

His relationship with his daughter comes before me, as a mother I understand that completely. I would give my step daughter the last penny in this house.

I fail to see however that he should support someone he has divorced years ago, who has no desire to support herself, over saving the money for things that will benefit this home (Him, Me, his daughter, and mine) for the future.

If you are a dad who pays maintenance and you can answer this for me please do so.

whiteandnerdy Wed 11-May-11 15:10:32

Yeah I'm a dad who pays maintenance for his children to his ExP, about two years ago Ex decided to switch to using CSA, the amount I paid changed by only a few pounds a week, but I still pay for school trips, clothes, school dinners when they go into arrears, and I parent her son from a previous marrage. But that's not to say my situation is anything like yours.

The problem with CSA calculations and CM calculations is that this is the money to support your child, what it doesn't take into account is when two people get married or form a partnership they are infact acting as 'a team'. Therefore partners may put their own plans and career's on hold, make choices and life dicisions, based upon investing in 'the team'. Hence when that partnership ends it's really difficult to assertain a value for such choices and investments in a relationship, but if your partner has come to an agreement with which he and his ex partner are happy with the best you can do is try to understand rather than interfere.

I constantly feel that I'm being taken for every penny my EX can get but hey that's just me wink

pickyourbrain Thu 12-May-11 08:49:43

white and nerdy thanks so much for your reply - You are an excellent person for me to quiz... because it seems that you are doing something you are not happy with (just like my dp) you say at the end that you feel you are being taken for every penny... yet you continue to pay over the ods (i.e. maintenance and school trips, clothes, school dinners when they go into arrears etc)

So my question is, if you are unhappy with it, why do you do it? This is what i need to get to the bottom of...

whiteandnerdy Sat 14-May-11 10:53:06

I do it because if I don't I've found my children and their relationship with both parents will suffer. My feelings are that in a situation where one parent doesn't respect the relationship between their siblings and the other parent, there really isn't any form of recourse in any dispute, it's basically an emotional hostage situation.

That's not to say how it actually is ... that just how it feels for me.

How's this for sorting out who pays for PGL school trip

That's my ex whispering at the start of the message.

pickyourbrain Wed 18-May-11 10:22:58

Damn it, I havent got a speaker on my PC.

The emotional hostage situation rings a bell here. I wonder if it's to do with men being able to compartmentalise better? (don't have any evidence to back that up other than my own experience!) He sees the money he gives her as seperate from everything i.e. our family, the kids, me, him, all of our feelings. Where as I see it as so much more...

ToothbrushThief Tue 19-Jul-11 23:19:31

That made me want to cry whiteandnerdy

I think many people get hung up over money. I understand why. Their hurt is there. Their perception of their ex is that they are having a great time/loads of money/time with children etc etc ...whatever really

There are two sides to every divorce.

I am better off than my ex mainly because I have a better job. He pays very little towards their upbringing and gives precious little time either.

I wish I'd married a man who would give more of time and money (because tbh I'm knackered trying to juggle work and kids) but I didn't. I can fight and fight or accept and move on. I'm accepting and moving on. I think long term I'll be happy.

pickyourbrain - do you tell him how you feel? Is this about your position in his life? your self esteem?

timehealsall Wed 20-Jul-11 18:45:19

I'm a Dad paying CSA maintenance to an ex who earns more.

As in most cases how I got to where we are is fairly complex (e.g. I could and am willing to do 50 / 50, currently have DS 35% of time - ex fought against the idea of shared care, in the end we went to Court but I actually dropped and Court Ordered what we were doing because I felt trying to get to 50 / 50 was doing more damage for DS in terms of strain on his parents relationship and if I had got it would cause long term issues).

We went with CSA quite early on because it seemed a good way to cut down on arguments - i.e. 3rd party decides the amount, that's that.

I have to say though that I'm now in a position where I live in a shared house and can't really save much towards a future, whereas my ex is now in 3 bedroom place of her own. She is co-habiting but it feels like the new man is onto a bit of a winner there, gets my monetary help towards his living standards by default and it isn't recognised that this is causing some inequality in our son's standard of living with his own father.

As my ex earns more anyway the money I pay her monthly feels like it goes to providing a much bigger roof over her head than she actually needs for her and DS. At the same time the loss of income for me means not being able to provide my own roof for him over his head. Yes he's in her care for 15% more of the time, but the inequality in the situation seems disproportionate and at 35% isn't there a need for me to provide a good standard of living for him when he's with me (i.e. unless he doesn't stay overnight with me at all don't I need a decent place for him rather than a shared house).

So I tend to think these days that family law and the CSA one size fits all approach is a bit flawed in times where equality in the workplace now can commonly lead to mothers earning more than their partners.

I think that is probably a long winded way of saying agree with whiteandnerdy, CSA is just a straight maths calculation and doesn't take into account circumstances beyond just "you earn that, so you pay that much in maintenance" which is pretty mad.

But as an unarguable guide CSA is the best there is right now.

Right sorry, rant over. Back to OP.

I don't think pickyourbrain that you are doing anything wrong in questioning whether your partner is possibly paying too much to his ex, especially if he actually does 50% of the looking after. However as he clearly earns more than his ex I think she could claim some form of spousal maintenance take it over CSA amount anyway.

I think in this situation your possibly best off letting him know your feelings subtly and supportively but not pushing anything as ultimately it's his decision and as you say, if you get the communication wrong it could set off alarm bells for him in terms of what your interested in. I don't believe for a minute from your post that you are anything other than genuinely in love with him and wanting the best for him, but situations with ex mothers are often finely balanced and very complex - i.e. totally agree emotional hostage taking goes on over money, lots of stuff about "I'm asking you to provide for your child", etc, etc and it isn't fair but it's hard wired into our current divorce system and repeated so much that it's become accepted.

What I do think is quite enlightening here is that you, as a mother, are looking at the divorce system from a more neutral angle and saying "seems a bit wrong" and that's interesting.

Finally think WibblyBibble was a bit harsh, but I guess it's good to see another perspective!

Orbinator Sun 24-Jul-11 01:29:58

But timehealsall also your DS will be benefiting by having a male influence in the house as well as that man's own salary going towards things for him and the fact he will be, presumably, keeping his mum happy.

I think the main thing here is that the money doesn't tend to be frittered away by the mother, but it actually does cost a lot to be full time carer of a child. As a parent, you obviously want the best for them and therefore if your life choices have led to divorce or however it came about, your child should always be your priority and not your own luxuries. Sorry if that sounds a little harsh but sometimes I think men forget what the money actually goes towards...

Orbinator Sun 24-Jul-11 01:31:52

i.e just because your ex has more money, doesn't mean she should have to spend it all on your child rather than you paying half...that's the deal when you have a kid, you are in it for life, even if you mess up the relationship with the other parent, you don't get to have less financial responsibility.

timehealsall Tue 26-Jul-11 01:33:48

Orbinator

Interesting.

Not going to get into it too much as suspect your views are probably entrenched and perhaps quite black and white.

But would like to take your second post and ask a few questions:

"just because your ex has more money, doesn't mean she should have to spend it all on your child rather than you paying half...that's the deal when you have a kid, you are in it for life, even if you mess up the relationship with the other parent, you don't get to have less financial responsibility"

1. What part of my original post suggested to you that I didn't think having a kid meat being in it for life? Didn't I mention actually I'd like to do 50% of the parenting, and surely 35% is a good chunk, especially when you consider that actually translates to 4 whole days a fortnight as I have flexible working arrangements so can look after him whole days in the week rather than him being at nursery. And I buy him clothes and toys and pay for activities, etc for all the time he's with me (not saying that makes me a hero, just saying I'm not taking less financial responsibility and I wouldn't want to).

2. "just because your ex has more money, doesn't mean she should have to spend it all on your child rather than you paying half" - couple of points:

a. I'm not asking her to spend all her money on our son, I'm just asking to be able to afford a standard of living for him myself where I can provide my own place for him (not a shared house) seeing as I do look after him a lot and seeing as I do have a decent income. Seems a little biased that because of the money I pay her I literally can't afford to rent even a 1 bedroom flat and maintain anything other than a standard of living where I do nothing / buy cheapest food possible - yet my ex is in 3 bedroom house (and even without new man and my maintenance she'd be able to afford a 2 bedroom place and be able to live pretty comfortably). And that's all because when it's measured on nights she has him 2 extra than me a fortnight and that's how our maintenance system works. I think that is unfair and I think it's ok for me to say that. And I think it's a simplisitic cliche to say that because I quetion that I'm somehow looking to have less financial responsibility than her - which is kind of what you're implying. I refuse to remain silent about something I think is very debatable in a society that makes such a show of striving for equality, even if it is a bit uncomfortable and "icky". So not at all, what I'm saying here is does our system actually distribute the finance fairly across 2 good and willing parents - because I don't think it does. If I was saying "yeah, you go for it, not interested" that would be 1 thing, but I'm really, really not saying that. And even worse does it actually encourage mother's to fight against shared care (as happened in my case), because it might lead to financial re-distribution that mean their standard of living dropping from being really lovely (as hers is now) to something a little more evening with her co-parent and ex. Which brings me on nicely to...

b. Of course I assume you know that when it's the other way round (i.e. if I earnt more than my ex) I would in fact have to pay her more to cover the disparity in income which was "an accepted part of the marriage", which of course means that if I earnt more in fact it "would mean I would have to spend it all on my child" - but I pretty much am in my situation now anyway so what's the difference. What I will say though is that feels quite "one rule for one, and a different rule for the other".

3. The stuff about the new man / her happiness. OK, so just for the record she left me and I really, really, really didn't want that and was devestated and wanted us to stay together as a family because I did love her. I'm past that now but I'm picking up a possible vibe that you may think I left her. Of course no-one doesn't have reasons to break up with a co-parent and I have worked tirelessly through counselling, etc since we split to understand my role in her not wanting us to be together anymore (clue: didn't seem totally obvious at the time). I have done that because I think it's so important for me to learn and improve as a person for our son AND for me not to slip into hating her so I want to understand. And lets contrast that with the fact that the new man (who turned up 2 months after we split and happens to be a work colleague incidentally) still, after 2 years, hasn't met me. I've asked, I think it would be a good thing for everyone practically and as an example to our son - and I'm only asking for a quick handshake when I drop him off one day or something - not an in depth chat about parenting. Again I've worked really hard to be positive in my head about this guy's influence and who he is, and to trust my ex not to bring a buffoon into our son's life - mainly so when our son talks about him I can be cool - but given the above on some levels it's always going to be slightly difficult to respect him / forget he's living in a much nicer house than I am and seeing my son more regularly than I am until he mans up and at least meets me briefly (which will also have a lot of advantages for us all practically, not least to talk about what example our son must currently be getting here about dealing positively with difficult situations). So, you know, it's nice you stick up for him and his role in making my ex happy, and there is a definite point there which I agree with, but let's be honest, he's a big boy, he knew what he was getting himself in to and he doesn't seem quite able to extend that manliness into making the very small gesture of meeting her son's father (or maybe my ex doesn't want him to or something). And after 2 years I'm sorry but that's starting to look a little like he might not be a brilliant male influence.

So anyway, hope that helps flesh things out a bit and show maintenance / post parental split arrangements really aren't that clear sometimes - and that a father questioning them doesn't necessarily mean automatically he's trying to abdicate responsibility for his decision to have a child.

I know a lot of these opinions aren't popular on the Mumsnet, but about time we started having a constructive debate, no?

Orbinator Tue 26-Jul-11 02:10:55

It is obvious that you do more parenting that most exP's OP, and I do think you sound like a caring and good father.

I am just confused say that "I'm not taking less financial responsibility and I wouldn't want to" and yet you resent the fact you have to live in shared accommodation and that you do not perceive the situation as fair. Either you are expecting your ex and son to not have as much of your money so you can move to a nicer house, or you are expecting her to pay for your house? Who's responsibility would you say your living arrangement is, yours or hers?

Women give up careers to have children and are often not promoted because of this. Maternity leave makes females, especially between 20-35 (i.e their most promotable) a risky choice for businesses, whether people admit it or not. This is why most mothers are paid for disparity in wages - because the sacrifice for employment is much greater than the males. There are of course exceptions to the rule - SAHD for example, but it doesn't seem to be the case with your situation.

Single people with no kids struggle to get a mortgage/go on great holidays etc etc. Unfortunately for you you also have a child to support. You are therefore a step behind single people on your wage - but isn't that obvious? No one else can do much about that other than you.

timehealsall Tue 26-Jul-11 08:44:25

Orbinator

OK, in for a penny, in for a pound, etc:

1. "Whose responsibility would you say your living arrangement is, yours or hers?" - that's not really the question here for me, my question is inverse i.e. "why am I taking responsibility for her living arrangements" - I assume you know that maintenance is technically paid to "help her keep a roof over DS's head". The point I'm making is that I'm paying her 15% of what I earn to help her keep a roof over our son't head, and that's having a much bigger effect on my ability to keep a roof over his head for the 35% of the time he's with me than it is on her ability i.e. with that money still available to me I could afford my own place. To go back to the question I pose "why am I taking responsibility for her living arrangements" the answer is simply because she does a few more nights a fortnight than me and I don't even want it to be that way anyway. I'm saying that I want to spend the money I earn, myself, to provide better living conditions for my son when he's with me, which is a significant chunk of his time. I'm not asking for her money, just for her to give up a claim on mine when that share is so much more detrimental for my living arrangements than it is beneficial in improving hers. And I don't think that's unfair because presumably the living standard our son benefits from with both parents is important?

2. "Women give up careers to have children are often not promoted because of this" - ok, I agree in some places this has an effect, but actually it's legislated against so recognised by law that this should not happen. That it does happen out there in places is bad - but to use it as an excuse for why divorce law should be biased and "make up for it" is wrong too - like saying "we all know kids steal pick n mix a lot so we'll over charge the people who pay for pick n mix to make up for it". Deal with the problem at source, don't penalise other people. In my case the "sacrifice" my ex made career wise was to take 9 months out basically. It really does not seem to have harmed her career particularly, in fact since returning she has been promoted (she works somewhere quite evovlved). If she'd given up work properly to have lots of kids, yes, I'd accept the argument, but the truth is she isn't going to miss out on being chief exec because she took 9 months off to have a baby is she? And no, I'm not a stay at home Dad, but as explained earlier I work somewhere with flexible arrangements that allow me to look after our son during the week. At the end of your last post you seem to be challenging me to get out there and do something about my wage if I don't think it's enough - well I could do I guess. I could find another job that pays better - but what are the chances it would come with the same flexible working benefit? And right now, before our son is at school, what's more important, spending time with him or earning more money? So in a way I kind of am a stay at home Dad in that to provide the child care I do my career options are limited to jobs where I can have flexible working allowing me to look after my son for a whole day a week. That's not being taken into account here is it, but by your argument actually maybe it should?

3. Yes I am expecting my ex to have less of my money so I can live in a nicer house because she doesn't need that money to live in a nice house herself, she's already got enough to achieve that, especially as she co-habits. I don't see thinking that way as being a bad thing, but your post suggests you think I'm shirking some responsibility by thinking that way. You talk in your post as if that nicer house would only benefit me, but it's going to benefit my son as well isn't it. And that's a double standard, because as already pointed out maintenance officially revolves around maintaining living standards for mothers so they can provide a good environment for the child. Yet it isn't ideal for him that 6 days a fortnight he's living in the environment of a shared house with the difficulties and restrictions within the space that entails. We make it work because he is the greatest and I'm an amazing Dad and the people I live with are very understanding, but it is far from ideal. When parents split up everyone always talks about "putting the child first", but I can't see how that's happening here. Surely, as it's easily possible here, it would be better for our son to live with 2 parents with their own places, rather than 1 with a really nice own place and 1 in a shared house. I don't get it - it's not like when he's with me suddenly my living standards transform into something much better.

4. And returning to OP's post a little bit of what I'm saying here is that her new partner seems to be doing quite well out of all this. Another way I could improve my standard of living would be to "find" a new partner and co-habit (sharing bills, etc, afford a place with someone I really want to live with, rather than it being necessary evil). But if I were to "find" a new partner she's going to be disadvantaged by the circumstances in a way that my ex's new partner most definitely is not. I think a little of what OP was saying was to do with this and I can see it / empathise. Taking on a partner who is an active parent is a big deal but in terms of quality of life it's much easier for men to be with single Mums than women to be with single Dads with the system currently how it is. Again, seems quite double standard no?

5. At what point have I said I want to go on great holidays / have a mortgage (I mean I do, but that's not the quality of life I'm arguing about here, it's something much simpler). I just want to be able to afford to rent a place of my own for me and my boy, have enough to treat him / buy him stuff and maybe a little bit left over for me so I can have some kind of life. And that would be just about achievable if I say only paid 5% of my salary over to my ex. Yes I could try and get a job that pays more, but as already discussed that might come to his detriment anyway in terms of time spent with a loving parent. Plus bizarrely I am now geographically bound by my ex, which is career limiting in itself, but again doesn't seem to be recognised by divorce which seems another double standard (i.e. lets talk about how divorced mother's careers are limited by their decisions and try and compensate, but when it's divorced father's that have limiting factors on their career let's not talk about that - and location is a big deal in limiting employment opportunities - and it wouldn't be the same if the parents had stayed together because location would have been a "team" decision, not one person's decision with the other having literally no influence).

6. Finally I just want to say something about using words like "resentful" and "bitter" (not that you used bitter but it's something I've heard from my ex a lot). It is very easy to use those words to undermine someone else's argument in situations like this. To dismiss it and basically destroy any legitimacy for debate there is by suggesting that actually all these feelings and challenges are coming from a very negative place that says more about the bad characteristics of the person making the arguments than anything else. I have to say I think that's pretty negative in itself. Whether you accept the arguments being made here, or feel they are wrong overall, there is legitimacy and logic to what I'm saying - it's not such a straightforward situation that what I'm saying can simply be dismissed. Most men I've spoken to in my position actually feel the same as I do, and the vast majority I have met really do want to be a huge part of their child's life and live up to their parenting responsibility. But the system in this territory makes that really difficult, especially when you have an ex who does not see you as their favourite person anymore (for whatever reason). I think I probably am slightly in the minority as a man, because I'm not the strong, silent type who just puts up and gets on, I actually want to stand up and say what I think and expose what I see in our system as huge, gaping holes of inconsistency and hypocrisy. I mean ultimately I'm not Julia Roberts in The Pelican Brief and I'm not going to change anything on my own, but if I can get a few people to think a bit more around this I'll be happy (hence replying to original post in first place before I high-jacked it!!!) But please don't think that what's happening here is resentment / bitterness because I think that is really unfair. Ultimately I met a girl, I fell in love with her and she fell in love with me, we got married and promised each other we'd work through problems and stay together, then we bought a house and we had a baby together all things that suggested we both still felt the same - then she changed her mind (which is fair) but it just seems like changing her mind has impacted my ability to be the parent I want to be more negatively than it has hers, despite the fact we've both worked hard all our lives and despite the fact we are both really good parents and people. And I've got some questions about how that can really be fair and I think it's ok to ask those questions without it being about me "not wanting to provide for my son" (which is the number one argument used against my thoughts time and time again and seems very simiplistic to me). If you want to know what I think an evolved divorce system for parents looks like check out Sweden's system (http://www.helplinelaw.com/article/sweden/170) - I think this hits all the bases in terms of protecting mother's from father's who just do one, but it seems a much better example of equality for parents who split but both do take parenting responsibility.

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