Can You Control How Child Support Is Spent?
Supporting one’s children is a natural and obvious obligation most parents are more than willing to fulfill. Issues arise, however, when a parent is ordered to pay child support, and by necessity must give control over how the money is spent to the former partner or spouse. Money is a precious resource, and parents with child support obligations understandably want to ensure the support they provide is benefiting their child and not the other parent. The amount is primarily based upon the amount of time with each parent, income, childcare, health insurance, and number of children. While the parents may negotiate an amount, a court will need to approve it to ensure the support is sufficient for the child’s needs, and waiving this obligation is not an option. Knowing that child support should and must be paid, each parent has an interest in understanding whether there are limits on the way this money is spent, or if there is some way to control its use. An exploration of these issues will follow below.
The Purpose of Child Support
Once a person is recognized as a child’s legal parent, usually at the time of birth or by filing an Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit, he/she assumes the obligation to support the child until adulthood. The public policy behind this law is to ensure the child is financially supported and does not become a dependent of the State due to lack of resources. Further, there is also an intent that the child has an opportunity to enjoy the same standard of living experienced while the parents were together. As a practical matter, though, prior to the age of 18, children are restricted in how many hours they may legally work, making it virtually impossible for most to generate the amount of money they would need to live. At the simplest level, child support is supposed to cover the basic necessities of life – food, shelter, clothing, etc. However, Florida also adds in mandatory payments for health insurance and will add childcare costs if connected with employment, a job search, or the parent going to school to gain employable skills. Adjustments may be made for a specific child’s needs or a parent’s ability to pay, but this framework is generally how child support is structured to provide for the child’s needs.
How It May Be Spent
Florida, like most States, assumes that child support will be incorporated into the recipient parent’s household budget and used as part of his/her overall resources to care for the child. Thus, the segregation or allocation of this money specifically related to expenses for the child is not envisioned nor a required aspect of receiving child support. Rather, the money is assumed to be used in part for rent, utilities, and other related household costs, although there is no mechanism to account for how the money is being spent, nor mandate it only be used for certain costs. The payor parent must primarily hope the money is being used as intended, and is left with just one option if there is legitimate concern about the child’s wellbeing. The parent can petition for a modification of the parenting plan and request a greater share of the parenting time if there is evidence the parent receiving support is not using the money for the child’s benefit, and the child is suffering harm as a result, i.e., some degree of neglect will likely need to be shown for this argument to be successful.
Contact a Florida Family Law Attorney
Supporting your child is not an option but wanting the money to be used properly is a normal concern. If you have questions related to child support, speak to the attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. for guidance on your legal options. Child support often leads to disputes, and addressing the issue at the frontend is important to prevent unnecessary escalation. Contact the Fort Lauderdale family law firm at (954) 467-6656 for a free consultation.