Issues surrounding child support and what it can be used on are common in divorce actions. Some non-custodial parents resent the fact that the payments being made for child support are benefiting their former spouse or other people living in the home.
An Overview of Child Support and What it Can Be Used On
Child support is used to support children by covering daily expenses and providing for necessary educational needs.
Duty to Support Children
Parents have the legal duty to support their children until they reach adulthood. This responsibility extends to far more than simply providing the necessities of life, however. Parents are directed to provide support in keeping with their ability to pay. Children should be able to benefit from the financial means of both parents.
In a situation where the non-custodial parent earns more than the parent responsible for the child's primary care, the difference in income levels is taken into consideration when determining appropriate levels of child support. The dependent child or children are entitled to the financial benefits of having a parent who has the means to provide more substantial support. The Court may order that a certain percentage of the non-custodial parent's future bonuses be allocated toward child support.
Child Support to Cover Expenses
Child support payments are made to cover the cost of raising a child until he or she is emancipated. In most states, the child is considered an independent adult when he or she reaches the age of 18 or finishes high school.
Child Support and Education Expenses
Some states extend the time of parental support if the child is enrolled in college or university to allow for the young person to complete a diploma or degree program.
Reasons for Non-Payment of Child Support
When non-custodial parents were asked why they don't make their child support payments as ordered, the most-commonly cited reason for non-compliance was that the payments were too high. This excuse is not supported by fact, however. Most non-custodial parents had an income twice the amount set as the poverty line.
The next most common reason given for not complying with an order to pay child support was that the non-custodial parent didn't feel connected to his or her child due to lack of access. This excuse fails to take into account that child support and custody are two separate issues. The child is entitled to the support and the parent is legally obligated to pay support, even if visitation does not occur on a regular basis.
The third reason given most often for non-compliance with a child-support order is that the non-custodial parent has concerns about child support and what it can be used on. They don't feel that the money being paid is being used to benefit the child.
Some states have laws in effect allowing the non-custodial parent go to court to request an accounting of how the child support money is being spent. For example, custodial parents in Colorado may be ordered to submit a financial statement each year listing the costs of raising the child or children being supported by the non-custodial parent. If the non-custodial parent still has concerns after receiving this information, the matter is turned over to a mediator to be resolved.
The Court recognizes that having to provide this type of detailed information is intrusive and will generally only order an accounting under certain circumstances. A detailed accounting will not be ordered:
- In a situation where the child's basic needs are being met
- If the original order for child support states that the payment can be used for a number of items, such as accommodation, food, utilities, education expenses, and transportation
An order directing a detailed accounting will only be made in response to a specific allegation of misuse of child support payments; it cannot be used as a fishing expedition.
Parents have a duty to support their children to the best of their ability. If a non-custodial parent has concerns about how the support money is being spent, he or she should consult with an attorney to find out what options are available in his or her state of residence.