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Tips, please, on coming to our own maintenance agreement

(111 Posts)
GetMeWithMyPowerTools Wed 08-Jun-11 00:38:11

XP and I want to work out our own maintenance agreement. What are the things we need to factor into working out an agreed amount?

(DS's residency split, because I guess it's relevant, is 10 days/nights with me per fortnight, and four days with his dad.)

We agree on the obvious things - such as tallying up direct expenditure on DS (school dinners, trips, clothes, swimming lessons, etc) across several months, and splitting this figure between us. But there are some grey areas we don't agree on/don't understand.

I work the equivalent of three days per week across four days (a bit more in term-time to accrue time off in lieu in the holidays/when DS is sick), so most days, can take DS to school/pick him up. I also tend to have DS more in the holidays than his dad does; although his dad could have him more, DS is happier sticking to our usual routine, which includes one weekday per week with his dad.

Because of my work, combined with a bit of help from nearby grandparents, I/we have no childcare costs. I have suggested to XP that my not working full-time and being around for DS before/after school and during holidays incurs a DS-related cost to me (of lost income). XP isn't having this, because he says it's also my choice and that I could work more hours ... well, I could, but then we'd incur childcare costs! My understanding was that we had both agreed it was best for DS if I could be around before/after school/in the school holidays as much as possible while DS is pretty young.

Another grey area is that I once posted on here (under a different name) about maintenance, and someone suggested that because I have DS most of the time and therefore pay for most stuff for him, XP should pay for more than half the costs of raising DS. I don't understand this. How would that be fair to XP? Shouldn't we both simply pay half the costs of raising DS? I don't know ...

Someone also suggested XP should pay towards DS's share of household bills (electricity, gas, water - even mortgage) - this hadn't occurred to me, and XP's view is that he pays for these things for DS when he's with him, so they're not so relevant.

So has anyone else come up with their own ways of calculating maintenance, and how have you addressed these more abstract costs of raising a child (reduced income to cover childcare, household bills, etc)?


gillybean2 Wed 08-Jun-11 07:08:34

Start with the CSA calculator to see what the figure would be should you not be able to come to an agreement and have to go via the CSA

Then look here for more advice on what kind of things to consider
includng some sheets to help you think about what kind of expenses to include

niceguy2 Wed 08-Jun-11 08:30:01

I would strongly suggest not trying to add up your bills/splitting the costs of schooling etc. It's complicated and emotive and doomed to disaster. You have (from his point of view) an incentive to maximise your outgoings, he (from your point of view) wants you to live like a frugal hermit, to minimise his maintenance.

Plus what if he gets a payrise tomorrow? How would you factor that into your equation? Your costs won't have gone up?

I'd use the CSA guidelines as a starting point. Roughly 15% of his net income for 1 child with a reduction for the fact he'll be having 2 overnights per week.

After that, the tax credits/CB etc go to you. He gets nothing. Unfair? Depends on which side of the fence you sit. That's the system in the UK.

Once you've worked out what income you have, then you can make decisions over if you can afford the current lifestyle you have. Doing it the other way around may be noble of him right now but unsustainable in the long run. Usually when gets a new partner and has his own bigger outgoings, he'll want to pay you less.

Lastly, whatever you decide the figure is, do your best not to rely on that money to pay for the basics like bills, food etc. The reason being is that if you are beholden to him to cough up regularly each month, he will continue to have an enormous amount of control over your life. Everytime you don't dance to his tune, he can just delay/not pay you for a couple of months and you are fucked.

Riakin Wed 08-Jun-11 09:21:10

I disagree with the posts above. For two reasons.

The most important being, if you were still a couple, would you go to him and say i need 15% of your income straight away when you get paid and i'll put 15% of my income to you because "the government has worked out a child costs 30% of a couples income."? No of course not.

Secondly i'll make a scenario, if your ex is on good money (£450+ a week) i'm sure nobody would say that a child will cost £260 a month to feed and cloth. Plus with 15% of your income too.

If you have nursery fee's that aren't covered by WTC/CTC then maybe so, otherwise i'd argue if a child costs that much there's something wrong somewhere or a few too many pairs of lelly kelly's/unnecessarily expensive toys (or in some cases a bitter PWC's going out money, holiday fund, hair and beauty treats etc).

Why not recommend and agree on things beneficial for the now, the near/medium and long term future...
- £100/£150 per month
- £20 per month into a Savings Account (i.e. future university money?)
- Pocket Money (from a certain age £2 (4-7) £5 (7-12) £10 (12-16)
- School Uniforms
- Half of all trips

I have spoken to quite a few people who all agree the above system is safe, solid and promotes a mutually and fair agreement, one that will allow you to remain in good communication, comfortable to speak to each other about issues (with child) and particularly for your ex, keep him comfortable.

If you involve the CSA as many people (the country over) seem to jump onto is use their calculation. Parents have a duty to be able to talk to the other parent and as adults you should be able to come to a sensible decision. The fact you are talking seems to indicate to me he is open to reasonable bargaining.

The CSA should only be a last resort, most of the time (it really is most of the time) they will start animosity between the parents (you and your ex) and it can lead to the situation never recovering to a point you can talk about issues i've mentioned above.

Remember that your child will want a quality relationship with both of you.

elastamum Wed 08-Jun-11 09:50:10

Riakin, Are you a lone parent? As you dont sound like one. I think you are opening a whole can of worms. If the non resident parent is a high earner and the RP is a SAHM, on splitting up the NRP is suddenly very wealthy and the RP really struggles. Happens all the time.

The CSA formula at least gives an externally validated starting point in what can be a very difficult discussion. My advice would be use that as the basis for negotiation. Thats what a solicitor will do.

Riakin Wed 08-Jun-11 11:36:25


No i'm not a lone parent. I'm not opening up a can of worms i'm trying to ensure what psychologists, legal advisers, magistrates, judges, therapists, mediators, counsellors, legal practitioners, government ministers etc are trying to do = Secure a continued amicable relationship where the child is concerned in respect of his or her parents.

If the NRP is a high earner you are forgetting the founding principals surround CHILD support, its not there to support the other parent (theres Spousal Maintenance Orders for that) these are Child Support (the clues in the name) the money is meant to be in support of the child and in mine and the groups above's opinion trying to maintain a healthy continued relationship between the parents that serves for the best interest of the child.

I've said the CSA most of the time actually serves as nothing more that to add hostility and animosity between one or both of the parents. That is a proven fact.

I can assure you my route will more likely be more fair and help to continue a positive situation between you and your ex which a child will want to see (Psychologists and therapists and others are recognising this). I could point you in the direction of google to see just how much animosity the CSA creates between parents.

Part of the current government strategy to charge for the CSA is of course because it wants to force parents to talk and come to their own agreements.

Bottom line and to be blunt, ask what you need for your child and not for yourself. Being a male and having known many in separation issues, they hate being used as a financial doormat by ex wives/girlfriends.

miniwedge Wed 08-Jun-11 11:46:17


we have a private arrangement for dsd with her mum.

We pay £220 a month, this is towards food, day to day stuff such as bus fares and school expenses as well as going towards housing costs.

We are also supposed to pay half of all school trips and half of any clothing and shoes costs.
However, we have found that dsd's mum has been telling us the full costs and passing them off as half if you see what I mean and that has caused some tension recently.

I think your choice to work less hours is your choice. Regardless of what you agreed when you were together you are now apart and you are responsible for supporting your choices.
If you were to increase your hours I think it would be reasonable to ask for a contribution towards childcare if you don't receive tax credits for it.

We have dsd 5-6 nights out of 14 so just under 50% of the time.

I agree with the poster who said you need to ask for what your child needs rather than your needs.

niceguy2 Wed 08-Jun-11 12:38:45

Riakin. With respect, if you've never been a LP then you are unlikely to understand the realities of being one.

There's a HUGE gap between what SHOULD happen and what does. OP and her ex have a seemingly amicable situation at the moment and it's great they are talking. But the simple truth is that that goodwill is unlikely to last the next decade or more. There WILL come a point where swords will be crossed.

Starting using the CSA guidelines as a baseline ensures that if heaven forbid they fall out, there isn't too much to move back to. Your way is
Complicated, idealistic and most LP's will tell you just won't work in practice.

Bearinthebigwoohouse Wed 08-Jun-11 12:49:13

It's a complete minefield and a tricky area to negotiate. I'd agree with elastamum and nicedad that the CSA guidelines are a good place to start, rather than getting bogged down in the detail.

It's all very well saying that parents need to be forced to negotiate and communicate, but that does require both parties to buy into the idea. I'm currently in a position where I have no choice but to go to the CSA because all my attempts at negotiating some form of maintenance is being met with a blanket "no".

Riakin Wed 08-Jun-11 12:54:06

hi niceguy,

i'm not denying that things might not turn sour, however what should happen is that parents need to actually communicate with each other. The CSA is not a fair system and is essentially a "Tax" (i belive its actually been quoted as such by a minister at some point historically).

The CSA will lead to communication breaking down much much quicker. I would argue that a child shouldn't cost more than £100-£150 a month.

At least if she's talking to her ex partner why not negotiate something in the best interests for all the near, medium and long term support issues, i.e. maintenance for near, school uniforms and school trips for medium and savings for long term.

If there is involvement from the other parent and contact is 50/50 and tasks are 50/50 then the expression lone and single parent need not apply.

Bearinthebigwoohouse Wed 08-Jun-11 13:02:30

What's not fair is that one parent can end up footing the bill for the child's upbringing, while the other can do what they like with their money.

And I don't know where you live Riakin, but the cost of housing dd alone is nearly double what you're suggesting is an adequate amount.

elastamum Wed 08-Jun-11 13:52:36

Riakin, I dont think you have any clue regarding the reality of what usually happens post divorce. OR you have a personal axe to grind. Are you a step parent? hmm

The CSA sets some ground rules which help prevent NRP's (usually absent fathers, - but not always sorry Niceguy-) bullying RP's into submission and leaving them dependant on the goodwill of the person with the earning power.

I negotiated an amicable divorce settlement with the help of my solicitor.
My ex then remarried and like a lot of NRP's who have moved on then sought to reduce the agreed level of child support, in his case by more than 50%. If it wasnt for the CSA rules and me being able to use these to stop him, we would be in difficult financial circumstances, and I have a full time job BTW.

If you want to take a straw poll on LP (It has been done if you look), sadly I think you will find that NRP's that willingly support their children are in a small minority.

Wellnerfermind Wed 08-Jun-11 14:56:53

I don't think you can use MN or Lone parents as a true representation as it's mainly women who are having problems that post on here.

Post this on Wikivorce and the results of any poll would be far different.

gillybean2 Wed 08-Jun-11 16:44:54

The reality is that separating parents are often emotinonally upset and angry. Particularly the one who has been left or did not want the separation/divroce.
WHile it may be better for the dc involved if the parents could amicably agree things the reality is the hurt and bitterness isn't easy to ignore.
And if you think about it if these parents could put their dc first, talk and be reasonable/agreeable it's unlikely they'd be getting divorced in the first place!

From what OP has said I would suggest that her ex is hoping to keep the maintenance low by questioning what their child costs. Yes if you are on a higher income you will pay more, but the CSA calculation is designed to keep the child in the lifestyle they could have expected had the parents stayed together.
So if the NRP was earning more it is likely they would have expected foreign holidays, the latest gadgets, designer clothes etc. Why should they be denied those now just because they don't 'need' them.
And thinking that money over and above the minimum 'needed' is going to be spent on the ex is rubbish. RP may well spend their own money on themsekves while putting the extra into savings or paying for extras for their dc over and above the basic needs.

Working out what your child costs rather than having a flat rate percentage may lead to a NRP having significantly more money in their pocket and arguing the toss that ex needs more for you extra items not considered like birthday parties (those attended with presents to give). If they want every item itomised they have no real idea of the ad hoc costs involved and leave their ex having to beg and scrape to get more. It will also build resentment failrly fast if a NRP refuses extras that they deem un-necessary leaving the RP to foot the bill.

So it can be argued that a flat percentage can be easier and cause less issues. Also by leaving it with the CSA the parents aren't forced to communicate and argue, show payslips and account for every penny of their income to the RP.

OP work out what he'd pay if you used the CSA. My gut reaction is that your ex wants to pay less than this so will question your calculated costs and what you reckon should be included. Avoid all this and go for a percentage.
Unless you find your costs are excessively more than the calculated amount and he wants to pay more. Though I seriously doubt that...

PiousPrat Wed 08-Jun-11 17:08:43

£100-£150 a month to support a child? <bitter laugh> it costs more than that just to feed DS2, let alone his brother as well and all those frivolities like clothes and heating.

I would tend to agree with those who have posted above to say use the CSA calculator to work out what he would pay and use that as a guideline, perhaps coming to some sort of agreement on extra curricular activities such as you pay for swimming lessons, dad pays for football training rather than splitting the cost of both as this way avoids resentment if the prices go up or there are extra costs (such as kit or away fees) as you both know exactly where you stand.

elastamum Wed 08-Jun-11 17:12:18

I completely agree with you GB2. IME NRP's who want to 'add up the costs' have aready worked out that they could pay less if they avoided the CSA rules. Even if you dont use the CSA, the majority of solicitors will use this as a starting point for a private negotiation.

My other piece of advice is even if it is amicable, get a court order agreed re child support so it is enforcable. This is particularly important if you have issues like school fees to consider, which are considered to be seperate to child support BTW. Without the court order we would have been in huge difficulties regarding our kids education when my ex decided he would rather not pay his half of their school fees any more.

elastamum Wed 08-Jun-11 17:13:53

Have just come in having spent £120 on uniform for DS1. Cant imagine what would happen if I had to try to get half of that paid by ex grin

maxine5 Wed 08-Jun-11 20:29:42

Message withdrawn

Bearinthebigwoohouse Wed 08-Jun-11 20:45:11

It's the child that is meant to be kept in the same manner, not the ex. I understand the sentiment but I do think that when divorce happens it does change things for everyone and it's not entirely reasonable to expect everything to be kept at the same standard.

I think I've already made this point on the thread, but £300 won't even cover the extra rent I need to pay for a second bedroom round here Maxine. So my figure for how much dd "costs" would be much higher than that.

niceguy2 Wed 08-Jun-11 22:59:26

The fact is that there are many different ways to calculate maintenace. The tot everything up & halve it is just as applicable as a flat percentage. There's no real right or long as both parents agree. If they do then it's nobody else's business.

However, in OP's case they cannot agree. He's not listening to her point about the fact he benefits as she only works part time. He thinks she should work more etc.

If that's the case, then the best thing is to use the CSA guideline's as a starting point because hey, if you can't agree....guess where you go??? That's right, the CSA! And they will apply their formula!

What you, I, OP or her ex's personal opinion as to what is right and how it should be calculated is academic. The CSA uses their formula full stop.

Smum99 Thu 09-Jun-11 11:54:02

A child's costs could be more if housing is taken into account but surely that is a cost that each parent has if they are involved in the child's life? i.e the NRP has to provide a room for the child. If one parent was a SAHM with no earning potential then the divorce would have made provisions for housing costs. Guess there are so many different situations it's hard to make a standard ruling.

On the OP's specific post: re childcare - difficult one, her xp has changed his opinion following the separation (which might be annoying but justifiable). The OP has a choice to work more and share the childcare costs or decide to be around for her child. It is her choice but it seems her xp is saying he would pay childcare costs so that's fair. On a personal view it may actually be beneficial to the OP, in the longer term, if she works full time i.e pension contributions. This is a dilemma that the OP shares with many mums (my current position so I have empathy!) do we work less to be with our children but take the financial consequences of working less hours!!

Paying for other costs? I really believe both parents should be involved with DCs (I have been a single mum as well as step parent). When my dd was with her father I wanted her to feel like she had a home there and therefore I accepted he had costs similar to mine..In the winter if I had the heating on were my costs higher because DD was with me? No. Do I have to pay extra council tax because my DD lives with me? No. If I am the RP then generally my children related costs are higher so I think it's fair to ask for support for these from the NRP. This is where I am in agreement with Riakin.

That said, CSA can be helpful to take the heat out of financial discussions so if parents can't agree then CSA assessment is straightforward.

Riakin Thu 09-Jun-11 12:01:43

Hi niceguy but the CSA formula in my opinion and in the many more opinions than those on here is that the CSA formula is flawed. It isn't accountable to the facts nor is it treating every situation for its own unique merit.

One of the biggest problems with the CSA is that it can contribute to the other parent being put into (in some cases very severe) financial hardship. If someone doubts my methods and would claim a child (singular) costs more than 300 a month there is an error somewhere (nursery fed's aside).

It's not the other parents responsibility to fund the total and in some cases extra support (financial). It's all well and good saying oh the extra will ne put into a savings account. I've only had a handful of people (mainly women) say that they put up 20 or 30 of their child's maintenance into a savings account. The reality is that what isn't spent on the child will be used by the pwc.

elastamum Thu 09-Jun-11 12:11:01

How can having to put 15% of your income towards supporting your child result in severe financial hardship!!!! hmm

The majority of NRP's are far better off post divorce than the PWC - and there is plenty of published research around on that

Are you by any chance supporting children that you dont live with?? You seem to have a big thing about PWC swanning around whilst poor NRP's pay for it.......

PS I do save for my kids, and pay school fees, from money I earn - so now Ive finished me coffee I must womble off to finish the report I am supposed to be writing

pinkbraces Thu 09-Jun-11 12:23:55

what happens re maintenance when their are two children involved and one lives with the mother and one with the father?

Elastamum, I think you have made huge assumptions when you say the majority of NRP's are better off post divorce. Based on what?

elastamum Thu 09-Jun-11 12:33:15

There has been a fair amount of research done on what happens to couples financial circumstances post divorce. Individual circumstances will always vary, but in cohort terms the assumption holds.

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