There is an overlap in the funds your ex may need for themselves and your children. This overlap can leave a gray area and cause suspicion of whether or not the funds you are providing as part of your child support arrangement are being used appropriately. For instance, if your ex is using the support-ordered funds for rent or mortgage, this is in the child’s best interest and would be considered an appropriate way to disperse funds.
Child support is to be used for monetary support of the child, including housing, insurance, food, clothing, and more basic needs. Support payments can also be used for medical expenses, extracurricular activities, or costs associated with travel to and from visitation with the non-custodial parent.
What About Additional Expenses?
Typically, the courts will require that parents share additional expenses in proportion to their income. These expenses can include tutoring, tuition for a private school, driver’s ed classes, daycare, other medical expenses not covered by insurance, summer camp, and more.
The verbiage in your agreement may state something similar to “Parent A is required to pay 60% of all additional expenses, while Parent B is responsible for 40%,” which is based on their respective incomes.
Is There a Way to Get a Report on How Support is Used?
The short answer is no. The parent receiving the support payments can generally use the funds as they see fit to care for the children.
There is no specific law stating that the custodial parent needs to keep a record of how they are allocating the support funds. This makes it challenging to prove they may be misusing the funds.
In some states, a judge can order that the custodial parent provide a detailed account of how funds are used. This additional order through the courts can and has been done, but it is infrequent. Typically a judge won’t spend time worrying about how funds are dispersed and if it is appropriate unless there is an obvious sign of neglect of the child.
Can I Modify the Support Payments?
To avoid a bottleneck in the court systems, modification requests are limited and less of a priority. This allows courts in each jurisdiction the time necessary to handle more serious matters. If there is not a significant cause to review or a considerable change has occurred in the life of either parent or child, it can be challenging to convince the courts to review the case.
It is important to note that if you request a modification, it may not result in the judge ordering the custodial parent to provide details on how they spend the support. Still, it can encourage a thorough review of each parent’s financial status, which may help uncover valuable information supporting your suspicions.
Suppose it is found that there have been significant changes in either of the parent’s financial status since the original order was put into place. In that case, this may be sufficient cause for the courts to modify the order.
Can Mediation Help Me?
Mediation is a great resource that can provide both parties with clarity. Chances are, if you are researching this topic, it is due to your inability to work well together with your ex to resolve your suspicions. You are not alone.
Mediation is a great way to utilize a neutral third party that can help you and your ex work together on troubling items and put together an effective plan to move forward. If you are concerned that the support payments aren’t being used appropriately or that your child is not benefitting from the funds as they should be, you may want to consider mediation.
A trained and experienced mediator can help you to resolve the dispute or at least have a different perspective moving forward without involving the courts. They are professional and neutral and will have the children’s best interest at heart without catering to either parent’s emotions.
They can’t modify child support orders, but they can help you resolve portions of your disagreement that may suffice your concerns or questions regarding child support payments.
When Do I Need a Lawyer?
It is a basic instinct to want to protect and provide for our children. It can feel overwhelming and frustrating if we think there is reason to be concerned. By working with experienced lawyers, you can gain a different perspective, learn about what other options have worked in the past in similar situations, and formulate a plan that best serves the best interests of your children. Family law lawyers are trained to handle and provide guidance for all things family professionally.
If your concerns are more serious, however, the time to speak with a trusted lawyer is now. Suppose you feel that as a result of your ex utilizing the support to better themselves rather than taking care of your children, it is time to get a lawyer involved. Or worse, if you suspect that your child is suffering neglect or abuse, consult a lawyer immediately.
Our office has worked with countless families over the years to help them resolve issues. We are ready to assist you if you need guidance, representation, or professional advice. Contact our offices at (360) 926-9112 to get your specific questions answered. We can work together to be an extension of your advocacy for your children and help ease your concerns and get back to your life promptly.