Dear Penny: My Husband Refuses to Pay for the Costs of Raising Our Kid

A man plays on his phone as his wife cleans with their child in their arms.
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Dear Penny,

My husband makes at least twice as much money as I do and we both pay bills. He refuses to pay for anything for our child. Not school supplies, clothes, classes, or birthday and Christmas gifts. He will even avoid me when I try to talk to him about it. 

I never have money because I pay bills also and pay for everything for our child. What should I do?


Dear T.,

I don’t have any tricks for turning an irresponsible jerk into a loving parent, so I really hope your husband’s attitude about money doesn’t reflect how he treats your child.

I’m not sure if you’ve simply dropped the matter when your husband has refused to discuss child costs. But you need to make it clear that there’s no more avoiding this subject.

Tell him essentially what you told me: “You avoid me whenever I try to talk to you about our child’s expenses. I’m always broke because of how we split the bills, and I can’t keep living this way.”

Dear Penny

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Maybe a more direct approach will get your husband’s attention. Otherwise, you may need to up the pressure a bit by making him responsible for more bills. For instance, you could tell him he needs to pay for groceries this week because you’re tapped out from buying school supplies.

This will be a delicate dance, though. Pressure tends to breed conflict, and you don’t want to create a hostile environment for your child. Your child deserves not to be aware of the fact that his or her parents are fighting over who will pay for their birthday presents.

Your ultimate goal should be to get your husband to sit down and review the household budget with you. Then, aim to make a habit of paying bills together each month. Child expenses shouldn’t be treated any differently than any other expenses. It also typically doesn’t make sense for couples to split bills 50/50 when one person earns significantly more. If your husband earns twice what you do, it’s reasonable that he would pay two-thirds of the expenses and you would pay one-third.

Of course, that’s all assuming your husband will agree to budget together. And I’m not holding out hope that he’ll be willing to openly discuss money or fork over more of his paycheck.

Refusing to pay for, or even discuss, his child’s expenses is unconscionable. The most charitable explanation is that he’s being selfish. But I also wonder if he’s spending money on things you’re not aware of, hence his unwillingness to entertain any discussion about shouldering more of the family expenses.

If your husband continues to stonewall you, you need to face it: He’s telling you that he comes first. What you do with that message is up to you.

You can’t force someone to change, but you can show them that actions have consequences. If your husband won’t accept financial responsibility for his child, that strikes me as a dealbreaker for your marriage.

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Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].