Any parent can tell you that raising a child is very expensive. In addition to the basics of food, clothing, and shelter, you may have daycare, extracurricular fees, or sports equipment. Any way you slice it, raising a child has significant financial implications. In the best of circumstances, the parents raise the child in the same household, which helps to defray the costs of certain expenses. However, it is also very common for parents to raise the child after separation or divorce. If that is the case, the court will enter an order for child support. Those paying child support can become frustrated and wonder if the other parent is using the child support payments for the benefit of the child. The next natural question is whether the paying parent can demand the receiving parent provide a detailed account of expenses and how support payments are being used.
The short answer to this is “no.” Although you may have concerns that the other parent is using your child support money to simply buy expensive clothes or go on lavish vacations, the court will not order the other parent to give you a list of their expenses and how the money from your child support payment was spent. Such a process would be intrusive and allowing it would quickly clog the court system.
During litigation, the answer is slightly different. If you and the other parent are returning to court to modify your current child custody or support order, you will go through a process called “discovery.” During discovery, you and the other parent will exchange financial information, including proof of income. It is possible for your attorney to ask for a list of common household expenses during that process, but if that occurs, keep in mind you may be asked to provide the same type of documentation. This could have even more far-reaching implications if you are currently behind on your payments but your documents show you have the ability to make those payments. In other words, be careful what you ask for as it could end up exposing you to more serious litigation and consequences.
One common complaint is that despite making faithful child support payments under the order, the other parent is still constantly asking for extra money to cover expenses. If this is happening to you, there are a few issues to keep in mind. First, the other parent may not have a solid understanding of what child support is meant to cover. Second, there are also times when unexpected extra expenses for the child may arise, and it is difficult to keep the budget straight if the expenses are so sudden. Third, remember that the child support order is what controls, and you are not obligated to provide extra money to the other parent, except for specific, court-mandated reasons, such as medical expenses for the child that were not covered by insurance.
If you believe the other parent is so badly mismanaging his or her finances as to put the child in danger, that brings into focus a different variety of potential litigation. In that case, the correct option is not to demand a list as to how money is being spent, but rather contacting your attorney about what you can do to make sure your child is safe, up to and including a suit for change of custody.
If you have questions about child support and your family law case, call us today at (320) 299-4249. We can talk to you about the process and how we can help you.