When you owe child support to your ex, you assume that he or she is using that money to care for your child. Most of the time, this is the case. Not all parents are as responsible as we would like, however, and sometimes parents may waste child support payments on frivolous items. When you hear rumors that your child support payments are being misused, can you ask for your former partner to account for the money?

Washington Law Allows Accounting

Washington state is one of the few places where the law allow the person paying child support to ask for an accounting of how the money was spent by the parent receiving child support. These laws exist in only ten other states.

According to Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §26.23.050(2)(a)(ii), child support orders from the court must contain a notice advising both parents that the parent receiving support may be required to submit an accounting to the court of how the child support is being spent to benefit the child.

This accounting can be ordered if the paying parent shows good cause for an audit. If the paying parent has reason to believe that the child support is being squandered, and can present proof of this belief to the judge, then the judge can order the receiving parent to account for how the money was spent.

The law does not allow for the paying parent to demand an accounting after every payment, but does allow the paying parent to bring his or her concerns about the money back in front of the family law judge.

Pick Your Battles

Child support can be legally used to pay a wide variety of things, and does not have to go to the children directly. While the payments can be used to buy clothing, food, and school supplies for the children, it can also be used to pay household expenses like the rent, mortgage or utility bills. So long as the children are benefiting from how the money is being spent, the expenses are usually ok.

For that reason, keep in mind that you should have a good reason to challenge your ex in court for an accounting of the child support money. The court will not be bothered will frivolous hearings, and will not be amused by parents who are wasting the court’s time by fighting about expenses which are within the receiving parent’s discretion.

On the other hand, if you have proof that your support is being wasted—for example, if your ex’s Facebook status celebrates receiving a child support payment by posting a picture of her new $600 purse—then you may have good cause to ask for an accounting of your support payments.

If you believe that your children are not being cared for properly because the receiving parent is squandering the support payments, you have the right to file a motion with the family court judge and ask for a hearing. At this hearing, the judge will determine if there is good cause to order an accounting of the money, and your receiving partner could be ordered to pay the money back or face contempt of court.

At Pacific Northwest Family Law PLLC, we know that you want the best for your children, and will work with your former partner on your behalf. If it is necessary, we can apply to the court on your behalf and ask for an accounting of your child support payments so that you have peace of mind that your children are being protected.