When a divorced couple has children together, one of the parents almost always receives monthly child support payments. Typically, it is the custodial parent – or parent with whom the children live with most of the time. However, it is not atypical for disputes to arise amongst divorced parents regarding use of the child support payments.
Often, the non-custodial parent paying child support claims the custodial parent is misusing the funds, while the custodial parent claims the child support payments are not enough to cover the children’s expenses. In many cases, there is also confusion over what child support money can lawfully be used for.
Our family law attorneys at the DiPietro Family Law Group can provide some insight on how you can or should use that child support check.
What You Can Use Child Support to Pay For
First, you should know that Virginia courts do not require parents to show the child support funds they receive are spent on specific activities – unless the child’s essential needs are not being met and the State or court must get involved. The basic assumption is that you are paying for your child’s necessary expenses.
Undeniably, your child needs food, shelter, and proper clothing. At a minimum, child support payments can be used to purchase groceries, snacks, beverages and other food items for your child. Payments can also be used to buy appropriate clothing, shoes, jackets, etc. In addition, child support can be used for your child’s shelter—like mortgage payments, rent, utility bills and phone bills—even if your own support is sustained by some of these shelter costs.
If your child is attending a private school, then your divorce settlement agreement should address who is paying for the tuition. If you do not, the court may apportion tuition costs to the noncustodial parent. However, even if your child attends public school, you know education is not entirely free. There are several fees associated with educating your child, such as school supplies (crayons, markers, pencils, notebooks, etc.), textbooks, lunch money and even private tutors. Therefore, the child support payments you receive can be used to help pay for these costs of educating your child.
Entertainment & Extracurricular Activities
Children need entertainment and stimulation. Most courts hold that a child is entitled to basic entertainment, like television programs, games and the internet. This may also include trips to the movie theatre, amusement parks and camping trips. You can use child support payments to pay for the reasonable costs of entertaining your child.
Your child support money can also be used to cover the costs of your child’s extracurricular programs. These programs may include after school sports, summer camps and appropriate clubs (like boy scouts).
As you can see, there are many expenses involved in raising your child above and beyond the bare necessities of food and clothing. You can use your child support money to pay for these costs, and courts will generally take these financial needs into consideration when rendering an initial child support order. But your child’s support needs may change and your ex-spouse’s ability to pay them may too, in which case you will need to file a modification of existing child support action in court.
If you are concerned that your ex-spouse is mishandling child support or they have accused you of doing so, the qualified family attorneys at the DiPietro Family Law Group are here to help you. We have decades of experience with all family law issues in jurisdictions across Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.
Contact us online today or call (888) 530-4374 for a consultation!