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Imagine being ordered to pay an astronomical amount of money in child support and, as soon as your ex starts receiving those payments, you notice that they’re suddenly living a more lavish lifestyle. This may lead you to wonder where your child support payments are actually going. Unfortunately, the aforementioned is anything but uncommon. Many of those paying child support wonder whether or not those payments are actually benefiting the child as opposed to benefiting the parent. If you are all but certain that your child support payments are frivolously spent on your ex’s whims, you may be wondering if there’s anything you can do about it.

What Does Child Support Cover?

If you’re wondering what child support covers, the most simple answer is that it covers pretty much anything and, unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about it. Your ex-husband’s Sephora binge? Yep, child support can pay for that. Your ex-wife’s latest trip to Cabela’s? Child-support can cover that as well. So when we say almost anything, we really do mean almost anything. Your ex has the right to manage their money as they see fit. And this does include child support as it is looked at as a form of income. Although your ex should use child support to care for the child, you cannot require an audit or accounting of how the support is spent. 

The Purpose of Child Support and Standard of Living

The purpose of child support is to provide the child or children with the standard necessities of life including shelter, food, and clothing. The support can also help the child maintain a similar standard of living in both homes. If one parent makes significantly more money than the other, they may be ordered to pay child support even if the child spends half their time at one residence and the other half at the other parent’s residence. The court generally does not want a child to have a high standard of living at one parent’s residence while having a significantly lower standard of living at the other parent’s residence. It’s not uncommon to see child support orders exceeding $20,000 in celebrity divorces. Though it’s definitely possible to raise a child on less than $20,000 per month, the court does not want one parent to have the ability to provide their child with a much more extravagant lifestyle than the other parent can. In Utah, that amount of child support is immediately tied to how many overnights each parent has. The more equal the overnights are between the parents the less child support will be ordered. In cases where one parent has sole physical custody the custodial parent is generally expected to cover all the costs associated with the child including clothing, school expenses, extracurricular expenses, etc. Pretty much everything other than medical expenses and childcare. In cases where there is joint-physical custody there is a greater expectation for both parents to share the costs of these other expenses, such as clothing, school fees, and extracurricular expenses.

What’s Really Going to the Child?

In many cases, child support really does directly benefit the child—even in cases where it isn’t being spent on the child alone. For example, paying for necessities such as rent and groceries directly contribute to the child’s well-being even though those items don’t solely benefit the child. If child support pays for rent in a safer location, that does benefit the child along with the rest of the family. Tuition at a private school, or extra-curricular activities, may also contribute to the child’s well being. In many cases, parents use child support in a way that does benefit the child in some way, even if it’s not for the child’s benefit alone.

When Will the Courts Step In?

It’s pretty unlikely that the courts would step in and take an active role in preventing the misuse of child support. Again, parents do have the right to spend their child support on whatever they see fit. Furthermore, parents aren’t required to provide their ex—or the court—with an itemized account of how the child support was spent. You cannot refuse to pay child support based on the suspicion that your ex isn’t spending the money on the child in question or in a way that you believe is best or appropriate. In fact, even if you know that the money is not benefitting the child, withholding child support payments is not typically a good idea. The court may consider intervention where the child isn’t receiving the care expected, but the basis for intervention would not be misuse of child support, but neglect.

When Your Child Is Experiencing Neglect

The first step in this process is meeting with an attorney who can give you legal advice that’s customized to your specific situation. Although there’s not much courts can do about misuse of child support, they’re more likely to act if there’s evidence that a child is being neglected or abused. Hiring a family law attorney who can advocate for your family’s best interests is a great way to protect your child from abuse and neglect. If you have reason to believe your child is experiencing neglect, contact CoilLaw today for an initial consultation.


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