Child Support Laws and the Use of Money

Parents may not agree about the use of child support payments.
Parents may not agree about the use of child support payments. (Image: Kazuhiro Tanda/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

When the judge signs the final divorce decree and child support order, his decision should be final. Some noncustodial parents are in compliance with the judge’s orders to pay child support and see the children regularly, but other noncustodial parents don’t comply with their support orders. Some parents may say they don’t pay because they don’t believe the custodial parent is using the money for the children’s needs.

Parent's Station

Child support is intended to cover everything a child needs. By this standard, the child is entitled to support from her noncustodial parent, based on that parent’s circumstances and station in life. Further, children should be able to share in the standard of living, not only of her custodial parent, but also of her noncustodial parent. If one of her parents is more wealthy, she is thought to have needs beyond just her basic necessities, with the supporting noncustodial parent providing for the additional items beyond shelter, utilities, clothing and food.

Court-Ordered Accounting

It is common for noncustodial parents to request that the family court order an accounting of child support expenses. Some states’ family courts order these accountings. Family courts may enter the order based on a judicial requirement such as “for good cause” or for “abusive disregard,” according to Child Support Guidelines. States that do authorize accounting include Colorado, Indiana, Delaware, Washington, Louisiana, Kansas and Alabama.

Annual Update on Actual Expenses

Under Colorado’s family court law, if the parent who does not have custody claims that the custodial parent isn’t spending the child support money on the children’s needs, the court can decide to send both parents to a mediator who resolves the argument. This official is responsible for listening to both sides and reviewing all paperwork. He makes the final decision, telling both parents who is correct. Florida’s law says the family court that enters the first child support order in a divorce case continues exercising oversight requiring the custodial parent to let it know how the child support money is being spent. Oklahoma’s law is similar, saying that, when it feels it is necessary, the custodial parent has to show proof of how child support is being spent. Oregon’s laws say the family court might require the custodial parent to show proof of how child support is used.

For Good Cause

Delaware’s law considers the custodial parent to be the person responsible for for showing how she manages the child support payments whenever the noncustodial parent notifies the court of any concerns. When the noncustodial parent contacts the court, he needs to list exactly why he wants the court to ask the custodial parent to show proof. The courts in Louisiana, Washington, Missouri and Indiana ask for the same level of proof.

Abusive Disregard

The law in Nebraska says that the family court can order the custodial parent to show proof of how the child support money is being used only after the noncustodial parent brings evidence that the money is not being used for the children. The court may order the custodial parent to file a report to the court periodically showing how the money is being used. In Kansas, the court can decide to change custody if it finds that the child support funds are not being used for the child’s needs. If the custodial parent doesn’t use the money for the children and is not able to account for how the money is being spent, she could lose custody completely.

Accounting Not Abuse Of Discretion

Alabama requires the family court to hold jurisdiction in order to protect the interests of the children “with scrupulous care.” If the custodial parent is not able to account for a sum of money intended for the support of the children, it can order an accounting of the money.

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