Legal Eagle: ‘Pay up or you won’t see kids’

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My ex-wife and I have been separated for a couple of years and we have two children together. When we separated we came to an agreement in mediation about contact and the maintenance I would pay for the children. This has been going really well and the children enjoy their time with me. However I have recently been made redundant. I am on a limited income while I am not working and so have not been able to pay the maintenance at the agreed amount. Since this happened my ex-wife has stopped all contact with me and the children and says she will only start it again when she gets the money. What can I do about this? I don’t know what my future financial position will be and it isn’t fair on my children to miss out.

I’m sorry to hear that you are having trouble with your ex-wife and the problems this is causing you. Financial pressures within a family can be difficult to deal with and are often a spark for problems. Your ex-wife should not be withholding contact because you are unable to pay your maintenance as this is not in the best interests of your children.

It is obviously important that any financial issues, as far as possible, do not affect the children and I would therefore advise you to pay what you can while you look for other work. It’s understandable that this situation may also cause some animosity between parents and it is very important that the children do not become involved in any arguments.

With regards to maintenance it is difficult for any action to be taken legally. However I would recommend that you have a look at the Child Maintenance Calculator online. This will give a basic assessment of your financial circumstances and provide a maintenance amount. This should be discussed with your ex-wife.

If she continues to refuse you contact I would advise you to consider going back to mediation. This is an essential step to take if you were considering any court action regarding the contact. As mediation was successful previously it may be a way of starting some dialogue to get contact starting again. If this is unsuccessful you may have to make an application to court to re-establish contact with your children. Unfortunately there is little legal aid for these matters and it may prove costly if mediation is unsuccessful.

If you feel an application is necessary I would advise you seek assistance from a family solicitor regarding the options for this.

l Ben Hoare Bell LLP Solicitors has many specialist Family Law Solicitors who can advise you on situations such as this. To speak to a Solicitor please phone 0191 565 3112 or email advice@benhoarebell.co.uk. Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for further information.