Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP
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I pay child support: Do I have any control over how it's spent?

If you are a parent paying child support, you likely want to know that your financial contributions - however large or small they may be - are actually supporting the needs of your child.

Unfortunately, you likely will not receive any sort of accounting or receipt that shows what the money pays for. In California child support is for basic food, shelter and clothing.

Why is there no accounting?

Trying to keep track of where child support payments go can be incredibly difficult. First, a receiving parent likely doesn't keep a separate account for child support purposes, meaning there is no way to trace which dollars were spent where.

Secondly, child support often works more like reimbursement because the receiving parent typically won't wait for child support to pay for things like school lunches or back-to-school clothes. Many parents will pay for these things themselves, and then use child support checks as repayment.

Finally, while child support is for the benefit of the child, this doesn't just mean that it must go to child-only expenses. For instance, it might help a parent pay rent and bills for the child's home. It might go toward car payments for the car a parent needs to drive a child to school. These expenses may not seem like child-related expenses, but they support a child's well-being.

What can I do if I take issue with spending choices?

Despite all these reasons why accounting is not common, paying parents do have options if they have concerns over the receiving parent's spending habits, which adversely affect the child.

To begin with, you can work with an attorney to pursue a fair child support order in the first place. With legal guidance, you can make sure all relevant factors are considered in the calculation of support to prevent you from paying more than what is fair.

You could also work with your attorney to seek legal remedies like an order modification if there is reason to believe the parent receiving support is neglecting your child's well-being.

Barring any allegations of neglect or unfair calculations, the best course of action may be to discuss concerns with the other parent directly if you are on amicable terms. You might also address spending, allowances and other financial details related to the child when you are discussing your parenting plan to prevent any disputes before they arise.

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