My ex pays me nothing but I’ve found peace with it

Ex pays nothing

When it comes to shared parenting, the biggest bone of contention for most separated couples is money. Unfortunately, not everyone plays fair, and the injustice can eat away at you. For this reason, I’d like to share some of my story about how my ex pays me nothing, but after many years, I am at peace with it.

This article will help if you are a mum who has your child or children full time or most of the time, and their dad doesn’t pay towards their upbringing.

I’ll talk about:

  • The circumstances in which this can happen (you might identify with one of them)
  • How to manage your mindset and not go batshit crazy with bitterness when left with the total financial burden for your kids, most likely while your ex lives the good life
  • Suggestions to encourage your ex to pay up (I don’t dwell on this, if they’re not paying now, it’s unlikely they will start)

I’m not going to be bagging my ex or your ex. Instead, I want you to spend less time fantasising over how to slash his tyres and refocus so you live a happier life … even if you are paying for everything.

Your ex pays you nothing, how can that even happen?

Every family breakup is different. Therefore, each set of circumstances are unique. Consequently, there are many ways single mums find themselves with full financial responsibility for their children.

Here are just a few.

The father has gone AWOL

Basically, your ex has pissed off.

It’s easy to live off-grid if you choose. And your ex may have made that choice so he can renege on his financial duties as a parent.

Although Child Support does attempt to track down payment-owing parents, this is not their focus. Finding your ex is the first step in a long, drawn-out process to get some of what you are owed.

If this is you, try these options to find your ex:

  • Online searches and social media
  • Mutual contacts
  • Get legal support
  • Through a private investigator
  • Through records and authorities

Have you tried all these with no luck?

Keep reading to learn how to find peace if your ex pays you nothing.

The father is in prison

Even if your ex is behind bars, he is still meant to pay you Child Support.

But don’t get too excited.

Child Support is income-based and they will only pay if their income exceeds a certain amount. This amount will not be reached on a prison wage.

You have taken full financial responsibility as part of a sole parental order

If you have sole parental responsibility for your children, it does not necessarily mean you are solely responsible for covering all expenses related to the children.

Sole parental responsibility primarily pertains to decision-making authority regarding significant aspects of the child’s life, such as education, health, and religious upbringing.

Although it doesn’t automatically dictate financial responsibility, you may have requested it for one of the following reasons:

  • You have concerns about the father’s willingness or ability to contribute
  • It is in the child’s best interests that you manage the financials
  • You would prefer to take control of financial matters and decisions
  • There is a safety issue with the father and you need to cut him out of your lives

Even if you have arranged for sole parental responsibility with total financial obligation, it is still hard mentally and practically to bear the brunt of these costs.

The father is unemployed

Okay, so dad is out of work? Or at least he claims he is.

If the father of your child doesn’t work or doesn’t earn the threshold amount to pay Child Support, he is off Scott-free.

And forget the cash-in-hand wage you know he’s getting. It means nothing if it’s not through the books.


The father is self-employed

Surely he’d still pay if he’s self-employed?

Think again.

There are thousands of mothers coughing up full financial expenses for their kids while their ex earns more than them and pays them nothing … in plain sight.

Yes, as a self-employed guy who states his wages as he wishes, it’s easy (and legal!) to keep them conveniently under the Child Support threshold. Meaning, he can earn plenty and not pay you a red cent.

Grrrr again.

Suggestions to get your ex to pay up

As mentioned, I’m not dwelling on this point. If you’re reading this article, you’ve likely tried everything to get your ex to pay you. Just in case though, here are some ideas.

  • Request a manual change of assessment (COA) with Child Support: You can complete a COA form if your exes reported taxable income is not showing the whole picture. For example, he is self-employed and declaring low earnings, while you are employed and showing actual wages. If successful, Child Support will adjust payments for a fair and correct outcome. 
  • Report Child Support fraud: If you honestly feel your ex is playing the Child Support system (and you), you can report it to Services Australia via this online report fraud form.
  • Get Child Support to collect the money: If you are registered with Child Support, remember that you can leave the delightful job of collecting the money to the government if your ex won’t pay you directly.
  • Income fraud: If your ex puts in dodgy income amounts that affect your payments, you can report it via the ATO with this online tip-off form.
  • Try guilting him into paying: Keep a list of the kid’s expenses from food through to school excursions and beyond. Email it to him weekly and ask him to make what he feels is a fair contribution. Keep pushing and he might break and decide it is only fair to help you out.
  • Cash-in on his cash: If your is getting cash in hand, ask him to give you some of that cash. Say you understand he might not want to report it, and you are happy if he pays you in cash the recommended amount stated via Child Support. Check this online calculator to get a rough idea of what he might owe you weekly.
  • Talk to him: Try to have a calm and open conversation with your ex about the importance of Child Support. Sometimes, simply explaining the needs of your child and his financial responsibilities can lead to a voluntary agreement. (Long shot, I know.)
  • Suggest he pays directly: Many men can’t stand giving money to their exes, even though the money is used for their kids. If they won’t give anything to you, perhaps you can convince them to pay bills directly to the debtor. For example, rather than pay you Child Support, they could pay directly for extracurricular activities to the supplier. Meaning, he doesn’t give anything to you but is paying for something.
  • Embrace his Disney Dad side: Many exes who are still involved in their kid’s lives won’t contribute to their upbringing but love to splash the cash to make themselves more popular than mum. This is known as a Disney Dad. You can work this to your advantage by getting your kids to ask dad for the big ticket items. For example, my girls wanted a trampoline. I couldn’t afford it. So I asked them to ask their dad, and (this is key), to ensure they told him that mum said ‘no’. I knew in his desire to trump me in the parenting stakes that he would say yes. The result: They got their trampoline and I didn’t have to pay. Try it!
  • Get legal support: Of course, you can always go legal if you’re still spewing about not getting any money. Note: this can be counterproductive because it will cost you. If you are eligible for legal aid, it might be worth a go.

Further reading: The essential guide to Child Support for beginners.

How to find peace if your ex pays you nothing

Okay, so you’re getting nothing from the father of your kids and your purse strings are under pressure? You don’t want to begrudge him or feel bitter as it’s messing with your happy vibe?

Here are my suggestions to find peace:

Know what you can and can’t control

This is top of my list of suggestions because it is one of the best ways to handle your current situation.

I’m gonna start with this poem/mantra/prayer:

Give me the strength to accept the things I cannot change

The strength to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference

Basically, you can’t change or control how your ex behaves. But you do have control over how you react to it. Once you accept this, you can let go of the desperate need for him to be a better person and pay up.

The fact is: You can’t make him do something he doesn’t want to do, however morally wrong his behaviour is.

Instead, focus on yourself. Use the energy you were wasting trying to change another person to improve your own actions, behaviour and inner thoughts. Think:

  • What can I do to help myself through this?
  • What will make me feel better?
  • How can I foster a more positive thought process?

Be damn proud

Just as important as my first point …

You should be bloody proud of yourself.

My girls are older now but I look back at how I handled my financial responsibilities single-handedly, and I glow with pride.

If you struggle with feeling proud, do this:

  • Take a moment to stop what you are doing and look around you.
  • What can you see?
  • If you are at home, know that you have paid for the roof over your head, everything around you, and the food you will eat at your next meal. If your kids are nearby, look at them. You have paid for the clothes they are wearing, and you are the reason they are happy and healthy.

You are entitled to feel proud of yourself every moment of every day for the big things and the little things that we take for granted.

Make pride a regular emotion you own and feel once a day, at the very least.

Further reading: Why being a single mum makes me so damn proud.

Change the narrative

Changing your narrative starts with changing what you say to yourself.

It might be that your current narrative includes this kind of wording:

My ex is an arsehole

It’s not fair that I have to pay for everything

This situation is a disaster

However, this negative self-talk fuels the fire of your frustration.

Instead, change your narrative to things like:

My ex makes his own choices, which he has to live with

I am a strong, capable mum providing single-handedly for my children

I have made the very best out of a challenging situation and for that, I am proud

Do you want to feel bitter and hard done by? Or confident, capable and happy?

Only you can change your own story.

Tell people

So, you’re ramping up your positive self-talk? Why keep it in?

It’s time to share your positive thoughts.

I know money is a sensitive topic. I don’t share my private finances with just anyone, but I’m not afraid to tell people that I am financially responsible for my children.

My most common line is:

I’ve never received a cent in child support, but that’s his issue, not mine.

Then I’ll move on swiftly, leaving people with the knowledge that I’m a kick-arse alpha mum providing big time for my kids.

After all, it is the truth.

Note: The point of telling people is not to have a whinge and further manifest the issue, so be careful that doesn’t happen. We are being honest, proud and factual.

Be honest with your kids

While we’re on the topic of honesty and sharing, let’s talk about what to tell the kids.

It’s important to remember that each child and situation is different. Moreover, the kind of information we share with them is dependent on age, maturity and personality.

We should share facts in an age-appropriate manner without (and this is essential) putting down their dad. Your children need to know why you can’t afford the same items that their friends have. And the main reason for this is because you are living on one income with no contribution from their dad.

Note: Bear in mind that money talk can worry kids. They might feel concerned that there isn’t enough or worry that you are stressed about it. Young kids deserve to live without money anxieties.

On the other hand, if your children are slightly older and want a particular costly item you can’t afford, explain to them why. But keep it clean.

For example, instead of saying:

Well, if your dickhead of a dad put his hand in his pocket and paid for anything, you might be able to have it.


As you know, I pay for everything myself, and for that reason, I’m gonna have to say no.

Children (even young children) join the dots and work it out for themselves.

Which leads me to my next point.

Have faith in your kids ability to see things as they are

Trust that your children will work out the truth sooner than you think.

When difficult moments arise and you can’t afford to buy them something they want, tell them why.

Other than that, sit back and know the penny will eventually drop. They’ll see different family dynamics and compare them to their own. It will become apparent to them who is supporting them financially, and also, who is not.

While they might not be able to get the latest iPhone, they will know everything they do get comes from you.

Knowing their mum is a supermum who provides for them on her own is a fact that will stay with them forever.

Be a great role model

Yes, being the sole provider for your family might be a struggle, but you are doing some kick-ass role modelling for your kids.

Here are just some of the messages you are (possibly unknowingly) passing on to them:

  • It doesn’t matter how hard life is, we can thrive in the face of adversity
  • Life is not always fair but everything is surmountable
  • The appalling actions of one person can not impact us if we don’t allow it to
  • The sacrifices mum makes to provide for us shows the strength and resilience of humans 
  • Mum loves us to the moon and back a million times

Rise above it

I love the term: Rise above it. It works perfectly when your ex pays nothing towards the upbringing of your kids.

The scenario is simple: He pays for nothing and you pay for everything.

Who is the better person here?

100% you.

Don’t lower yourself to the level of a man who thinks it’s okay to renege on his financial responsibilities to his own children.

Instead, rise above the drama, the excuses, the disappointment and the sheer frustration of it. Take yourself to a place of peace.

The payment would be minimal and cause more stress than it’s worth

If your ex doesn’t want to pay you anything for raising his kids, he’ll make sure that any payments through Child Support are dismal.

I have heard of single mums whose exes are expected to pay less than a dollar a week!

Even if you are owed more than this, it likely won’t make a massive difference to your financial situation. For this reason, weigh up whether the money is worth it or not.

Just think, if you take no money, you owe him absolutely nothing. And, there are advantages to being financially estranged from your ex.

Is the amount of money you might have got really worth the fight it takes to get it and the ongoing dialogue about money that you may need to have with him?

Change your mindset to know your life is easier in many ways without the drama that would come with his money.

You don’t need him

Don’t live with the thought process that you need something from your ex.

If he’s not been paying, and you and your children are still functioning, this is proof that you don’t need him. It also confirms how damn capable you are of doing life ON. YOUR. OWN.

For many ex-couples, there was once a time when you relied heavily on one another, believing you needed each other to tackle life.

Reality check: You do not need your ex anymore. Not emotionally, not practically, and not financially.

See how far you have come, you strong, amazing, independent mum.

You’re not alone

Knowing you are not the only mum in the world doing it completely alone is a comforting thought.

There are heaps of single mothers who are 100% responsible for the financial upbringing of their children. Situations vary. For some, the children’s dad is no longer on the scene. For others, he still plays a part in their children’s life. In both cases, they pay nothing towards the day-to-day expenses of their children.

It is more common than you may think. Out of all my single mum friends, two have an ex who contributes.

Reach out to other single mums in a similar situation, not to ex-bash (however tempting). Rather, share ideas on how to manage on one income and, of course, to give one another a pat on the back.

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