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Child support — It covers more than you think

Attorneys often hear grumblings from clients who are court-ordered to pay child support. Many resent what their exes use the funds for and claim child support should only be spent on the basic necessities for their kids.

While it's true that the beneficiary of child support payments should be the child, that still gives the custodial parent wide latitude when determining how it's spent.

For instance, a parent can put some or all of the child support towards rent or mortgage payments, utilities and other expenses of daily living. When the payments are for an infant or small child, it's likely that the money does get spread around to household bills.

Younger kids may also spend time in daycare so their parent can work, and child support can go towards these costs. The same is true for travel and transportation costs, like car notes, insurance, registration fees, public transit costs, gas, oil and general vehicle upkeep expenses.

Older children have different needs and requirements, so child support payments might later be redirected toward paying for tuition, school fees, extracurricular activities, uniforms, sports equipment, music lessons or musical instruments.

Medical costs can be expensive, and parents of chronically ill children may use their child support to pay down some monthly bills.

Even so, courts do not require parents to prove the child support payments they receive go toward specific activities, except, for example, in cases where a child's basic needs are not being met. The assumption is that parents with physical custody of a child are paying for the necessary expenses to raise the child and, therefore, courts will not monitor the spending habits of a custodial parent.

Child support can buy groceries, pay for school lunches, clothing, household items and goods, phone bills and internet charges.

Family court judges tend to agree that kids should be able to have some basic entertainment, so child support can be spent on gaming systems, computers, trips to the beach, camp-outs, amusement parks, movie theaters and restaurants.

Unless a parent paying child support is able to show that the child's needs are going unmet even though the support is being paid, the courts don't require custodial parents to keep account of where the child support money is spent.

Source: Findlaw, "What Does Child Support Cover?," accessed Feb. 03, 2017

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