The goal of child support is to ensure that both parents, regardless of whether they are unmarried or divorced from one another, provide for their children as best they can. Although the money is earmarked for the child, how the money is spent to meet the child’s needs is up to the custodial parent.
What Must Child Support Be Spent On?
Firstly, the State of California uses a guideline calculator to determine how much child support must be paid to at least meet the child’s basic needs or at most cover other child-rearing costs like those for healthcare, childcare, schooling, and extracurricular activities.
Since it’s the parent’s responsibility to provide food, housing, and clothing for their kids, child support money can always be used to cover those basic needs. Particularly, child support money can pay for:
- season-appropriate clothes that fit well
- mortgage payments or rent so the child has a safe shelter, and
- gas and electricity bills.
Many parents send their children to public schools, while some send their kids to private schools. In most states, tuition must be taken into account when calculating child support, though if tuition isn’t factored in, there’s nothing stopping custodial parents from using child support funds to pay tuition fees. The money can also be used to pay for school-related items, such as textbooks and school supplies.
Traditional child support payments do not always cover the costs of taking care of a child, such as health insurance, though in California, children who are covered by Medicaid/CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) won’t have to have health insurance factored into child support calculations.
Nevertheless, many child support orders do include a clause stating that each parent must pay a monthly amount for the medical expenses of their kid. Do note, however, that this sum seldom covers major medical expenditures like braces or hospital admissions.
Child support guidelines do not always take into account the costs of childcare, which are often unavoidable for many working parents. In most states, courts apportion the cost of child care equally between the parents. Judges in other states have more leeway; they can consider factors such as each parent’s income and time spent with their kid.
Extra Child Support Expenses
These are some of the things traditional support calculations don’t include but custodial parents can spend on:
- tutoring fees
- summer camp
- school uniforms
- extracurricular activities like piano lessons
What If Parents Can’t Agree on How Child Support Must Be Spent?
For one reason or another, child support becomes a contentious issue for a child’s parents. They may disagree with where it should be spent, or worse, the payer may accuse the custodial parent of spending the funds on themselves instead of on their child.
When disputes occur, it may be best to turn to mediators or family law attorneys. Mediators are neutral third parties who help parents understand each other’s point of view and arrive at an agreement on how child support must be budgeted. Family law attorneys, on the other hand, need to be called in when you suspect that you’re only being milked for your money and your child is being neglected or abused.