Withholding Child Maintenance Is Financial Abuse

Withholding Child Maintenance Is Financial Abuse

Withholding child maintenance is financial abuse.

Abusive relationships are difficult to escape and can leave victims with physical and emotional scars long after they end. Some kinds of abusive relationships, however, persist long afterwards; in fact, they begin when the original relationship ends.

Financial abuse is a form of domestic abuse which can manifest itself in several ways – usually, in one partner’s controlling the other’s access to money, stealing from the other or controlling the other’s spending.

Withholding child maintenance is a form of domestic abuse that persists after the end of a relationship: it is financial abuse, but unlike other types of abuse, it is tolerated by society.

Power and control

Refusing to pay child maintenance is a way to retain control over a partner after the end of a relationship.

Asserting one’s will as to refusing access to money that a former partner is entitled to is a way for many to feel powerful after a breakup – a disempowering event.
There are clear links between domestic violence and financial abuse. A report published by Women’s Aid in 2015 said,

“As a form of control, financial abuse involves using or misusing money so as to limit and control the partner’s current and future actions and freedom of choice.”


Refusing to help support a child is a way of forcing the parent with care to put all of their assets into a joint responsibility – ensuring they remain at a disadvantage financially. This disadvantage continues far into the future and may never be compensated for.

It is a way for the non-resident parent to exercise control over their former partner, and there are a vast number of parents in the UK who wilfully choose to exercise this financial control on the person who is raising their child.

Withholding child maintenance is financial abuse after a relationship ends. Click To Tweet

Most victims of this financial abuse are women

Although domestic abuse is experienced by men as well, this predominantly affects women due to their historic social status and prevailing cultural norms.

We would not tolerate a husband beating his wife and brush it aside as “a domestic matter”. We’re starting to wake up to the fact that financial abuse isn’t just “a domestic matter”.

Still, child maintenance dodgers are able to escape the public eye because their form of abuse is seen to be private business. It isn’t “a domestic matter” – it’s a social epidemic.

Child maintenance evasion isn't "a domestic matter" – it's a social epidemic. Click To Tweet

The financial manipulation of a former wife or partner through withholding child maintenance is given only a brief mention in the list of ways in which financial abuse occurs. It is known, but not widely dealt with. Why?

Abuse by omission and commission

Is it because of being abuse by omission instead of commission?

Well, parents who neglect their children are regularly prosecuted for child abuse – this is a crime of omission that rightly requires punishment, but withholding child maintenance is both a crime of omission (in neglecting a child’s needs and failing to provide for them) as well as a crime of commission (in financially abusing the parent with care).

My experience of financial abuse

I would never normally consider myself to be a victim of domestic abuse, but in fact, I do know the experience of being controlled financially after a relationship ends. I knew it would happen, as my ex-husband plainly told me that he intended to give me nothing to care for our son.

I’ve received no child maintenance in ten years, and it is a repulsive thought that the tendrils of control could reach beyond the end of that relationship, but they have.

What is even worse is that this is a form of abusive relationship that is impossible to leave – if the former partner refuses to contribute, the parent with care has no choice but to shoulder the costs alone, and there is very little help from the state to stop the abuser’s manipulation.

My own options for work and career prospects have been diminished as a result of being a single parent with limited resources – the knock-on effect for my future earnings still remains even now. This is not “seeking victimhood”; it is simply the truth.

This story could be repeated a million times over at least for all of the single parents who have to contend with a former partner who refuses to pay maintenance.

If you are a victim of this type of abuse, don’t accept it. There are too many of us enduring this right now.

Write to your MP and ask them to help stamp out financial abuse by child maintenance dodgers.

If this situation applies to you, sign up to my child maintenance newsletter to get access to free resources and child maintenance news.

Like this? Read these:


  1. I’m currently in this situation and is now in debt as I try to keep a roof over my child’s head and food and clothes. He works in the area I live and has only contributed 3payments in 2 years. No xmas, no birthdays, does not contribute to anything my son needs but will happily flash the cash with the new supply and he certainly doesn’t go with out, designer clothes, new cars, holidays. This is a form of child abuse and the government have to do something. If I neglected my son and never provided for him I would have social work at my door and my son taken off me and charged so why is this no different for absent parents who don’t contribute

    1. You’re very right. Thanks for sharing your story. I wonder what would happen if we all started calling social services and telling them that these absent parents are actually neglecting their children!

  2. This is the first (and only) article I have read that describes my exact situation. My ex was emotionally and physically abusive for years and since splitting 6 yrs ago has continued to disappoint his children to get at me and withheld maintenance to make life difficult. I marry next month and he has started to get worse and worse. I would love to report this but where do I begin ?

    1. Hey Laura, I would suggest starting with keeping really clear records of everything he does (if you haven’t yet). There have been times in the past when I should have called the police over my ex’s behaviour but I didn’t because I didn’t want to waste their time or bring attention to myself; that only allowed things to escalate.

      If his behaviour is affecting the kids then you may need to contact social services, and if you have a contact order in place with the courts then going back to look at that might help… but it’s hard to say without knowing all the details.

      Keeping a separate notebook for documenting all the ways in which he is negatively affecting you and the children helps with mentally separating it from your life as well as having all the info to hand for when you do contact the police.

  3. I’ve gone through and still go through the same thing with my 18year old daughters father whom I left his deadbeat ways when she was 2. He barely saw her in 13 years and lives an hour away. He only started paying me money regularly when she turned 13 and I am forced to do it all his way. It’s given, it’s taken away and so on. I MUST accept HIS proposal of a ‘private agreement’ otherwise ‘you will get nothing and I got away with it for years’ he now has two sons and does everything for them and his their mother (now ex). If I question anything I am blocked or verbally abused. My 4 year old sons father earns around £3,000 a month and lives in the tax free British Virgin Islands with his equally wealthy and childless Australian girlfriend. He hasn’t seen my son since he was 18 months and walked out on him then. Ever since he was 9 months old he pays me £100 a month and he uses every abusive tactic for me to eventually get this every month. It’s withheld, he agrees to pay a little extra and now and then I may get £120, he then changes his mind. He sends the money late and ‘forgets’ to press send With the text with moneygram code. He went on holiday for 3 weeks over Christmas and paid the money on 22/12/17 but ‘mistakenly left the code home so I ended up getting it 9/1/18. He shows people he pays me ‘early’ (his agreed date it 30th) and I apparently complain for nothing (he actually has on paper when he pays but the mystery is when I receive his text with his code through a third party! He blocks us you see and has done in and off for years. Sonetimes he wont even buy his son a Christmas or birthday gift or call him. My son lost his shoe (3 different pairs) 3 times in 4 weeks honest truth! he was 2 1/2 …anyway, I asked him for money for shoes; it was beginning of December. He said ‘NO!why should I? it isn’t my fault your not taking proper care of my son, your either lying for more money or your irresponsible for allowing him to lose his shoes all the time I pay you monthly you need to budget yourself better and stop spending badly’. Well that told me. Since I’ve only ever asked him for £60 for school uniform through my employer as I was blocked (he befriended my employer to escalate abuse)however he quickly paid me and gave a generous £100???? Why? Because he was concealing yet another romance with his longest one so far the rich and elite and highly connected Australian! He didn’t want me messing that up. So I messaged her to see if she could help me. I found out because of the recent hurricane and wondered why he had not contacted my son to let him know if he was dead or alive. I spotted them on Facebook. I was polite to her and she breathed me and told me I was bitter and mentally unstable and ‘he’s an amazing father to his son’ even though my son hasn’t heard from him since she came along…her conclusion was baffling. Anyway I accepted that too along with my £100 a month. And the fact he wants nothing to do with my son. However he pays for almost everything and invests quality time for his older two daughters with his ex wife (whom he was still sleeping with while engaged to me) she KNEW all about it. I didnt. For all he’s done I e contacted his family whom I’ve never met and rattled a few cages as he won’t communicate with me for anything so he called the police on me (south wales police( searched for me… work, friends, banging down my door on a Saturday night. Ringing my phone. Eventually they caught up with me and warned me if I was to harass my ex again I will be locked up!!! (Harass the man who constantly texts and calls my dad, my friends, my employer, to abuse me)I must not retaliate or I get taken away!!! I was forced to sign a pin/declaration legally binding that I was to leave him alone or else. Yes…he continues to smear me to everyone and contact my f&f and employer. Police say too bad for me because he got in there first. He lives in another country- me…ptsd, depression, anxiety. Him- happy, unscathed and very wealthy. Ahhhhh good old British justice. I am now going to try a REMO application where a uk civil court tries to retrieve monies from the absent parent abroad but I hear it’s very tough and a long process. I’m on the verge of refusing his £100 because I can’t take the snide remarks To my father and boss in his monthly message and his withholding. Where I’m being told by even my f&f at least your getting something, ignore him. I wish I could!!!!

    1. Hi Nicola, I’m really sorry to hear all this, but thank you for sharing it. It’s a very difficult situation to be in… I would have to ask, why any of your friends or family would ever entertain a message from him at all? If my friends or relatives spoke to my ex and listened to him abusing me I’d have quite a lot to say to them! I wish you all the best in coping with this difficult situation xxx

  4. In this exact situation too my ex is a multi millionaire however only has to pay £88 per month for our four children due to his self employed status allowing him to minimise his tax return. CMS only takes into account earned income not capital assets or unearned income (unless a variation is applicable). My ex. Is currently paying the bare minimum but stating he will pay a great deal more if it is under his control on an account he has access to as and when he pleases… it is now 7 years since we separated yet he still controls our lives financially. This kind of person evades the normal system, he has a good accountant and feels that the laws of the land don’t apply to him. I have set up a petition via change.org to ask the DWP to change the CMS system to ensure fair calculation taking into account all income and capital as the CSA did in the past.

  5. Most of this article, along with the comments, seems to be narcissistic abuse. I urge everyone to research narcissism, along with the children of narcissism. In most cases, the narcissist will do exactly opposite of what you want. There is no end to the abuse until you either go no contact, or in the case of parenting, grey rock. Do not rely on support payments, because a narcissist only does things that will in some way benefit the narcissist. Even if it means sending you a payment to hook the new supply…make himself/herself appear to care for the children. I have two disabled children with my narcissistic ex, who left in the middle of the night, abandoning us, and flew from NYS to Alaska. Why? Because his true nature was being revealed. The mask came off. Of course, the tale he tells others is far from the truth, and they can feign such charm and humor that the new “friends” become his flying monkeys. Myself, and the kids, are very much more at peace now, but even though as a parent, he still has the responsibility to assist in caring for the children, being a narcissist, he feels that doing so takes away from “his” money. This has left me with a very large responsibility to care for in more ways than most, for our severely disabled, yet wonderful, children without assistance from him. I urge anyone that believes they are dealing with a narcissist while co parenting, to read, research, and heal, as well as learning how to deal with the very childish antics without stressing yourself. They are very predictable, think they are so smart, yet are no smarter than any other average person, and only worsen with age, and once you learn this, you will not only be less stressed, but always one step ahead.
    Thank you for this great read! Not paying child support and maintenance is abuse, abuse that is only continued after the relationship end, with the help of unsuspecting innocent people, and it hurts the most vulnerable…the children. Ladies, do not feel anger or resentment towards the new supply, for she will endure the same abuse, and right now, believes the excuses and lies told to her. The stages of narcissistic abuse are the same for every victim, she will one day be in your shoes. Yes, right now she believes he and she are soul mates….just like he made you believe…she believes she is different, special…just like you did. She is being love bombed, just like you were, but that will end…just like it did with you. Then the manipulation, gaslighting, financial, physical and/or emotional abuse will begin. Just like it happened to you. Unfortunately, no, you cannot warn her, she will not believe you. As the stories she hears about you must be horrifying…how could someone treat him so badly? She will learn, in time, on her own. If she has not the ability to see his patterns for what they truly are now, then her learning process will be that much more difficult.
    With love to every child not being cared for by both parents, with love to every parent doing the job of two singlehandedly, bravely, and with love to every victim…heal, and be a victim no longer…be a survivor.

    1. Kimberly, you are spot on. You’ve described my situation to a tee, although it’s only one disabled child in my case. And he and/or his parents have contact with her three times a week because we all live in the same little English coastal town.
      He’s so smug and must think he’s oh so clever, finding that loophole in the law that means if he goes self-employed then he can return a zero income and pay zero child maintenance. Essentially robbing his own daughter. And constantly tries to make out that I’m the bad parent. Even though he’s the one who threw me around the house like a rag doll in front of our daughter and threatened me with knives. And he’s the one who returns her way after the agreed time so I have to deal with the knock on effect of an overtired child for the next few days. And he’s the one withholding child maintenance.
      But one day she’ll grow up and realise just what a waste of space and oxygen he is.

      1. Beth – can you prove what outgoings he has? If he is living beyond his zero income means then this can be challenged. You can work out what he pays for mortgage, bills and council tax. Also if he pays himself dividends then you can go after that for maintenance if he is the sole director..again via the variation method. I’ve just done this with my ex and been successful. It takes months (about 7) but with the support of my MP we finally have been successful.

  6. I am currently trying to see about revoking or doing something to get the SSI disability help my son with Spina bifida had . Dad ( whos company earns 150k a year but he just claims 20k in income as the CEO) went to the SSA office to gain information about the help we were getting through SSA. He found out that if my son had an account of more than 2 thousand dollars, the help would be cut off. that is exactly what he did. since October 2018 I’ve had to ask for loans and family help to make ends meet. I now have proof that he took that money (6k) out of my son’s account right after I informed him of this loss of benefits. well he failed to tell me this. Now he’s taking me to court to take the only 400 dollars a month in child support he gives me for my two kids. Please advice as to the best thing to do. I do think this is child abuse and would like advice as to how to stop agencies like SSA to stop giving my information just because it is linked to my sons and just because ‘ he is the father’ …
    I think my rights and my sons have been violated..

    1. Hi Elsa,

      I’m sorry to hear about your troubles. Your case seems fairly complex but for a start you might want to set aside a day or two to write letters of complaint to any of your local representatives and the relevant benefits agency. I assume you’re in the US so the procedures are going to be different from what we’re accustomed to here in the UK, but maybe some US readers may have some ideas.

  7. Hi all fathers should contribute to their children’s upbringing but the whole system is unfair. I gladly pay every month and have since the beginning and more, but the CMS don’t really take fathers who have their children on a regular basis into account, this leaves me in financial hardship and my kids miss out on things when they are with me, all the while mum receives, unmeans tested so has a monthly top up of her and her partners income every month and they are doing all right, thank you very much.
    The whole system needs looking at.

  8. My ex husband left last year, all was good for a while as we had a police case against him going on. He would pay for his two children monthly without fail. Until April this year the police dropped the court case my daughter had against him due to lack of evidence. As he sold things to cover his tracks. Once he found out this case had been dropped within in 2 weeks he had someone who we didnt know befriended us. So he knew what was going on within the home, to the point that the person who we became friends with was paid to make sure i lost the children to social services. Lucky for me the social worker was the person that pieced it all together due to an email my solicitor received from my ex husband, and all payments have been stopped.

  9. I separated from my ex 6 years ago now after a 10 year relationship. We were never married and he’s basically walked away with all the assets. I have just approached him to start paying child maintenance and I’ve received what amounts to an email of threats if I do. Anyone got any advice what to do in a situation like this?

  10. Firstly, what a wonderful, supportive place to stumble upon. I was ‘googling’ is withholding child maintenance payments abuse?… the ex husband is a Ltd Company Director so on Companies House he is paying, oh, £600 or more towards a car, £300 or more towards ‘entertaining’ his two children? Initially £200 a month, now £120 a month.

    I work in a professional job, make a decent income but there are months I can’t afford to eat. I’m up to my eyes in debt as he just stopped paying through the pandemic and paid £50 a month for many months. His get out? I don’t need to pay… and no one will make me. He’s right. I’m in financial ruin. He moved to divorce. He went for the ‘top Lawyer’ in our town (she advocates for Women’s and children’s rights- sits on a panel) they argued for less contact and supported him in paying nothing for the children’s birthdays or Christmas.

    I have raised a variation with CMS, been on hold for hours and hours. Felt like I’m losing my mind with the injustice and disgusting, disgraceful system. I’ve tried to find a solution with the father (Women’s Aid have helped me see this will never happen with an abuser- which is so liberating in itself)

    And there is your endemic, misogynistic, utterly patriarchal problem in a nutshell.

    This is a much wider problem, as you so eloquently put in your blog… it’s abuse… it’s endemic… and it’s tolerated… not just tolerated, but supported and used as a means of further abuse by the wider society.

    Google- “how many children does Boris Johnson have?”

    How dare he talk about that beautiful girl Sarah Everard and her family. He’s part of the problem… he is the problem.

    I have two daughters and I will not give up until this changes. It’s time for change.

  11. Unfortunately the CMS are woefully incompetent and understaffed. I’ve been fighting for fours to get my ex wife who abandoned our children for her “ new life “. To pay for her children, she was earning £400,000 per year …once the CMS…got her details she paid three payments amd quit her job of 22 years and went private. Stating she was unemployed and earned less than £7 a week. She has subsequently been caught three times but continues the lies and deceit. No cards or presents for her children for 3 years or chooses not to see them against a agreed court order ..that she’s flaunted for three years. I recently had the order revoked …she was using the order to get discount too …while not seeing her children, The non resident mother is a complete narcissist as someone pointed out above …it’s abuse and especially emotional abuse of the children via any means possible. It’s not just men that do it…women do it too, mine is a very very extreme case. God bless, be assured we are the right side…it’s a shame the children cannot have just a normal parent that cares for there own children. ?

  12. Dorian, I am so sorry to hear that. It is abuse and it’s tolerated and more so, supported by society. You are right, you are in the minority but you are the resident parent. Female or Male our children are being disgracefully let down by the system. I know you will understand that as over 90% of resident parents are female this is very much a gendered issue, caught up in many other issues such as gender based violence, patriarchy and misogyny that so desperately need to be addressed. However, you are also a victim of this system, it NEEDS to change, for the sake of our children. I don’t know if you know about the White Ribbon Campaign?


    It certainly needs men like you to stand with us, because after all, we are all in this together.

    I pray for the day ALL our children are truly put first and resident parents are given the powers and support they absolutely require to ensure their children grow up as ‘circuit breakers’ free of the childhood ACE’s the current system condemns them to suffer.

    Best of luck, and we stand with you ✊?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.