Communication with your co-parent may be difficult at the best of times. Throw the topic of money into the mix and it can feel impossible! Money Coach Natalye-Marrie Boyce of The Lone Parent shares her advice on how to talk about money with your co-parent.
Talking about money can generally feel socially awkward and if things are already tense between you and your co-parent then it’s usually seen as a no-go area.
Although, however uncomfortable the conversation is, your children still need to eat, be clothed and exist and this is a legal financial obligation of both parents under the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008.
When discussing money with your co-parent, it’s important to approach the conversation with transparency, clear goals and a cooperative mindset. Here are some tips that have helped my clients navigate the conversation successfully.
If you want to talk to people in the same situation as you right now, download the Frolo app and join a virtual co-parenting Meetup: there are new ones added every day, including expert-led events with specialist advice.
Having conversations about money, in general, can be challenging, so learning when to have conversations such as money with your co-parent is a welcomed skill.
Unless you and your co-parent are best friends and agree on almost everything, I would have the conversation in a neutral place. Not in your home.
Have a conversation when you know you are at your best mentally and emotionally. So for example, the beginning of the week is when I’m at my best. I have a high level of patience and tolerance. Mentally I’m at my peak so I know I’ll be able to problem-solve within the conversation at the speed of light. However, towards the end of the week, I am tired and in need of a break so having a conversation about money with my co-parent would not be a fruitful discussion for either of us.
Also, be mindful of your co-parent’s timetable. You want to be able to accommodate their schedule as well as your own.
So before you grab the phone to send the text of needing to talk, think about when you function best and where you want to discuss finances. Make sure it's in a space where both of you will be comfortable as possible.
Just going with the flow and seeing what the other person will say about financially supporting your children is not the best way to go about it.
Set your intentions before having the discussion. Write down exactly what you would like the outcome to be. If it's about the ongoing costs of raising children then make that clear. If it’s about saving for your children’s future then make that clear also. Doing this will keep the conversation on track and to the point.
For example, if you now require an extra £300 a month, then give a breakdown of what the £300 will be used for. This will eliminate the unnecessary comeback of you using the money on yourself.
Ensure to point out that your child deserves to live a comfortable life and BOTH parents are legally responsible to ensure that happens.
The conversation should be child-centred at all times. Remember that you’re here to discuss the well-being of your child so remember to stay present and stick to the point. Bringing things up from the past will not help.
Write down the points that you would like to discuss and bring them with you to help you stay focused.
I like to write a reminder in bold capital letters stating “It’s all about the children” whenever I am communicating with my co-parent. This helps me to only talk about the children and their needs and ignore the other stuff that’s not relevant.
However, if the other parent is having difficulty staying focused then be ok with that. You are not here to control anybody. Instead, end the discussion immediately and walk away.
Go back to the drawing board and see what other options you have in order to get the desired outcome.
Your options could be trying again but this time having a mediator to mediate between the two of you or it could be going to child maintenance and using them to assist in your child being financially supported by both of you.
Your focus should always be on your child, so if you feel that the discussion is taking away from this, do all you can to bring the conversation back on track, but do not be afraid to walk away if it’s not focused.
Most of us only listen to respond and this is a disservice to all involved in the conversation.
Instead, listen to understand. Even if you do not agree with what they are saying, allow them to finish the point they are making. This fosters respect and will encourage cooperation between the two of you.
Understanding where your co-parent is coming from is the key. Showing that you understand will encourage them to eventually be in agreement with the intentions you’ve set. This needs to be genuine and not just do this to get what you want.
Going over finances shouldn’t be a one-time thing and neither should conversations about financially supporting your children.
As your children grow, their needs and wants will change and from experience, the cost of raising children will increase the older they get.
Your and your co-parent’s finances will change also so this needs to be taken into consideration.
You can plan reviews as often as they’re needed. Everyone’s financial situation looks different from the next person's.
You could start by reviewing your agreement every 6 months to ensure you cover all changes and then see how it goes from there.
For this conversation to be successful, both parties have to be willing to be transparent, open and communicate effectively.
Remember that both of you want what is best for your child and sometimes that may look different to each of you, so be understanding and open to your co-parent's point of view.
Get on the Frolo app and join our chats about co-parenting and finance to connect with people in the same situation as you. Keep an eye on our Meetups section for Natalye-Marrie's next expert event.