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Financial Question of the Day: What To Do With Child Support

By Erik Folgate

There are quite a few single moms and dads out there receiving child support from their ex-spouse. Unfortunately, there are also some single moms and dads out there that should be receiving child support, but they aren’t getting it. I know that one of the excuses that deadbeat parents don’t pay the child support is because they don’t trust the parent with custody to use the money on the child. So, here’s the question, and it’s more of a moral question, than a financial question:

Is It okay to treat child support like monthly income? In other words, is it okay to be included as part of your regular budgeting income and apply it to your regular monthly bills?

My answer to this question is, YES! It’s perfectly okay to treat child support like monthly income as part of your monthly budget. As long as you are providing for your child such as putting a roof over their head, feeding them, putting clothes on their back, and allowing them to live a quality life, you don’t have to set that money aside to be SPECIFICALLY used for the child. You’re providing for that child, so that money should go to things like utlities, groceries, rent/mortgage, and the list goes on.

The problem that some single parents run into is that they don’t use that money to provide for the child. They use it to go on vacations or support a car payment for a car they wouldn’t normally be able to afford, or buy clothes for THEMSELVES rather than the child. If this is going on, you still don’t have an excuse for not paying child support, because IT’S THE LAW, but you need to bring up these issues with the court. Express your concern that you think the parent with custody is not using the money for basic necessities.

What are your thoughts about this? Do you have any experience with this?

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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  • Minimum Wage

    Bring up those issues with the court is usually a pointless exercise, so I wouldn’t even bother suggesting it.

  • burgundydurango

    I agree with Minimum Wage that it is pointless to mention it in court unless you’ve got some kind of crazy proof that the child(ren) isn’t being provided for. The parent receiving the support can easily argue (and rightly so, i think) that the support they’ve spent on themselves is replacing funds in their own budget which they spent on the child. I’ve been paying child support for 14 years on my two daughters (yes, I’m current on all my payments), in addition to extra money here and there when necessary, and though I may not support all of the financial decisions they’re mother makes but I also don’t really have any say. It’s her budget and as long as the girls are well cared for (they are) then that’s all I can really worry about. I should add that the best financial decision you can make if you are the one paying support is this: DON’T FALL BEHIND IN YOUR PAYMENTS!!! It’s more difficult to catch up then it is to stay current. I know someone who recently got hit with a judgement of over $100,000 on back support. The interest alone on that is over $600 a month, this person will likely never pay this amount off.

  • http://madsaver.com Mac

    Kind of a no-brainer, but it definitely is a moral question for some. No matter what, the money needs to be paid. That’s not the question. The custodial parent then has the “moral” obligation to use the money on their child, but I can see that also being used for food, housing, etc. If there’s extra, I’d be ok with it being used for anything, really. For those celebrity divorces, I’m sure the $50K/month some spouses receive in settlements aren’t used to buy a toddler golden blocks or diamond-studded books.

    Point is, they money can and should be able to used for anything, as long as the child is well taken care of.

  • Heatherbug265

    I am recieving support and I use the money for whatever I want, ie. clothes, new shoes, vacations, bills, etc. The check comes in my name, not my son’s name. The electric company uses child support income to determine eligibility on their low income programs, so why wouldn’t I treat it like normal income? BTW, I started recieving child support when my son was 12. He is now 15 and the court order is dated 9/23/1998 so for all that time I paid everything. I take care of my son (he is def not deprived, spoiled really) and I am spending that cash!!

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