Does a Parent Have to Account for How Child Support Payments are Spent?

The short answer is "no."  (Who says lawyers don't give clear answers?)

One of the biggest complaints we hear is that "the other parent is not spending my child support payments on our child."  This can be particularly frustrating when the child support payment is significant and/or when the payor disagrees with the recipient's spending habits.  For example, I had one client call and was very upset that his child's mother had sent him an email saying she was using his child support payment to cover the cost of her new SUV.

Child support can be used for anything and there are few, if any, rules on how it is to be spent.  Kentucky's child support guidelines, as were most other states', were established in response to the mandate of the Family Support Act of 1988 passed by the federal government.  That act is similarly silent as to how child support is to be spent.  Child support is intended to pay for the child's basic needs including housing, food, and clothing.  In addition to these basic needs, it may also be used for school activities, extracurriculars, and transportation costs, which would include the new SUV I mentioned in the earlier case.

The parent who receives the child support has broad discretion in how the money is spent.  Although it can be frustrating to the person paying the support, the payor has no real say in how it is used as long as the child is being cared for appropriately.

Occasionally, parties will enter into an agreement to "split expenses" for the child instead of paying child support.  These agreements almost never work out.  It seems invariably that the parties end up disputing what a legitimate expenses or what they agreed to "split."  This will usually wind up in additional litigation and legal fees while a judge is forced to review receipts for these expenses.  Judge despise being forced into a situation where they are required to review receipts.  When these types of agreements come back before the court, the court will most likely do away with the agreement and order guideline support be paid instead.

Similarly, Kentucky courts will not review or require an accounting of how guideline child support is spent by the recipient.  The best way to ensure the child support is being used to properly care for the child is to maintain a close relationship with the child.

Photo courtesy of ben_osteen

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