According to a pan-African study undertaken by two Canadian sociologists, Kenya has one of the highest rates of single parenthood on the continent.
Women in their late teens and early twenties are the most vulnerable in Kenya, as they are often left to raise children alone when their male partners leave. By the age of 45, six out of every 10 Kenyan women will be single moms, according to the same study.
Many people have certainly had to go through the changes that come with separation from their partner, or divorce. When there are children involved and cash to handle, the situation becomes even more overwhelming.
There is no magical formula for managing finances for co-parents because life, particularly when it comes to children, is not linear. From clothing to education, to feeding, to being a present parent, it's quite a roller coaster.
If you and your child’s other parent are co-parenting you may already be aware of how tough it is to reach an agreement on how to split child expenses.
So, what financial challenges do co-parents face and how can you navigate them? Be my guest.
When one parent wants a more expensive lifestyle for the child while the other isn't able to match up, then it becomes a challenge.
If you and your partner are unable to reach an agreement on expenditure, adopt an average for every expense then split it into half. For example, if you and your partner disagree over which childcare provider to use, with one parent choosing a more expensive childcare centre than the other, research the average cost of child daycare in your area and divide the cost appropriately.
The parent who advocates for the more expensive childcare facility should pay the difference between the baseline and the more expensive daycare facility.
You can also consider taking the average of the two daycare costs, split them 50/50 then based on your incomes, have one parent who earns more pay the difference.
In other words, if you really want something for your child that the other parent is unwilling to pay for, or not able to afford, you can pay for it yourself.
Read Also: Daycare Costs By Neighbourhood in Nairobi
If your co-parent buys your kids an expensive toy on a random Monday or eats all of their meals at restaurants while getting into debt, it can be frustrating, especially when the very important segments of co-parenting are being left out like paying school fees for the kid.
One parent might be a saver while the other is a splurger. Financial differences in budgeting, saving and frugal living could lead to lots of frustration. And this is the hard reality of co-parenting;
You have no power over the other person.
If you cannot reach an equitable agreement so that none suffers the other's cost, you should first accept that you cannot change it. Speak openly to them about how their lifestyle is making it hard for you to plan for your kid's financial wellbeing and how he/she can make it easier for both of you and the child to have a seamless flow.
Life is unpredictable and unexpected expenses are bound to happen.
Things like; medical emergencies, an increase in tuition fees, short-term co-curricular expenses like school trips, and accidents, are unavoidable and may be a cause for arguments especially when your co-parent is in a tight place financially.
You can present a cooperative method for dealing with unforeseen expenses with your co-parent. For example, you could introduce the idea of setting up your children’s emergency fund to cover unforeseen expenses.
Read Also: Easy Steps to Create an Emergency Fund in 100 Days
In most co-parenting setups, the father sends money to the mother, while she manages all activities surrounding the child's life. So the kid only sees mummy buying everything and providing for them, and it could be detrimental to their relationship especially if the other parent is truly involved.
One option to avert this is to modify the support arrangement so that the father is also able to be around the child by being directly involved and responsible for some expenses. For example, he can be the one to take the kid shopping every month or according to your plan.
When it comes to co-parenting expenses, both parents must be creative and willing to compromise. There is no one-size-fits-all solution because each individual is unique.
Many couples create communication difficulties knowingly or unknowingly.
Both parties need to listen to each other's points of view. Sure, one parent may "win," but it's not always about that. Ensure that you strive to reach an agreement no matter what.
According to sociologists, when childcare and other costs are discussed ahead of time, co-parents are more likely to agree and they both should be able to participate in the decision-making process.
For effective communication, keep your demands and passive-aggressive fights to a minimum. Simply talk to the other parent and listen to what they have to say. Of course, saying it is easier than implementing it.
If you just started co-parenting recently, it is important to set expectations as early as possible. Determine which costs are essential and which ones are not. Set limits for your own savings and income.
Choose your battle. You may not always agree completely on every decision. If you can't agree on something, ask yourself if it's really worth fighting over.
A good starting point here is having a discussion about shared expenditures.
Co-parents commonly split the following expenses:
With that laid down, have a shared budget for the expenses and come up with a way to split them, as well as how much each of you should contribute towards them.
Another possibility is for the parent who is most enthusiastic about an activity that could possibly inconvenience the other like a holiday, to fund the bulk or all of the costs.
Don't get too worked up about tiny matters, though. If your co-parent needs to chip in but they are unable, you can take one for them and then agree that they can help with other things like making unexpected adjustments in their schedule for school visits.
Ensure that whatever technique it is you're choosing to manage your co-parenting expenses, is a long-term solution and not just short-term.
And remember, the objective is to exude pleasant, friendly energy because you will nearly always receive it back.
It may make you feel better to rant about how uncaring and selfish the other parent is, but those words benefit you, not your kids.
Family finance experts advise that parents should avoid saying statements such as; “I can’t buy you this because your father or mother has not sent us money” in front of their children.
If you have to explain such a scenario to them, you should do it in a way that does not blame your co-parent or, unintentionally, your child. Model the behaviour you want your children to emulate without criticising their other parent.
Discuss the importance of working hard, living within one's means, budgeting, saving, investing, and giving back.
Read Also: How to Raise Financially Responsible Children
Separation and adjusting to a split parenting schedule can be very destabilising financially. But it doesn't have to happen to you.
Be ready to communicate and discuss budget adjustments with your children and co-parent, in a pleasant, constructive manner. Commit to working together as co-parents to improve the quality of life in your family.
Put Your Child First