Child Support…?

I think I was about fifteen when I brought up the subject…

“You shouldn’t be spending it that way,” I told my mother. “The money you get from Dad is child support. It’s for us. You should put it in a special account and use it to pay for things we need. Things like clothes and school events and Sister’s daycare… anything left over should be saved for college.”

“You’re right,” Mom said. “It is child support. And part of supporting you is putting a roof over your head and food on the table and gas in my car so I can take you where you need to go.”

In short, what she said was, “Your father gives me money to spend as I see fit. Butt out.”

At the time, I accepted my mother’s explanation of how child support is supposed to be managed. In hindsight, I can say that I was financially and emotionally supported by both of my parents until the former was no longer necessary.

These days, I’m thinking a little more critically about the issue. I wonder… if my mother had collected alimony in addition to child support, would there have been a more acute delineation in how the funds were used? I mean… the alimony would have been for her, while the child support still would have been for us. And does it really matter? I think, as long as money is tight enough to ensure responsible spending, the answer is probably no…

But… what if Mom had paid for a luxurious spa vacation with the funds that could have secured my freshman meal plan? How ethical is that? (I was once stunned to hear a story about a woman who was receiving thousands in monthly child support.  She put an addition on her house and then told her children she couldn’t afford to take them to the dentist.)

Thanks to Lee Block’s most recent contribution to the Huffington Post, I now have even more questions… like:

  • What percentage of the kids’ expenses is each parent responsible for?
  • Should the paying parent get a break because s/he pays 100% of expenses while the kids are with him/her?
  • If the support doesn’t cover enough… should some of the kids’ expenses be cut from the budget? (I’m recalling Danielle’s cheerleading expense on a recent episode of Downsized)
  • Should calculated support obligations ensure that the paying parent retains enough money to provide adequate accommodations for the children when they are in his/her care? (I’ve heard stories about Dads who pay support, but can’t share custody because they live in sub-standard conditions)
  • Why is it that some women want to claim “no support?  no visitation!”… yet this logic never applies while a couple is married and Mom doesn’t work in order to care for the kids?  (IMHO, being a good parent isn’t all about monetary contributions)

Would anyone care to share his/her opinions on this issue?


16 comments on “Child Support…?

  1. ChopperPapa says:

    I could write you a book about this topic and your post may very well spawn my own proliferation of observations.

    When I was divorced 6 years ago, I agreed (due mainly to my children being 2 and under) that I would pay for her to stay home full time for the first year. It was my decision and not forced upon me. Fortunately I was in a position to do so. It was a culmination of Child Support and Alimony.

    She blew thru slews of money furnishing her new home (did I mention she didn’t work?) that was nicer than mine. She took vacations with her new boyfriend (who also worked as a personal trainer — ) and bought a new car.

    She complains that she doesn’t have enough money and “I don’t know how difficult it is to pay for everything) she will not give me joint physical custody. When I offer to split all of their expenses 50% in lieu of child support because she says what I give her isn’t enough, well, she adamantly protests that this isn’t the answer.

    She isn’t getting as much as she used too (that’s another story), but I simply can’t worry myself over how she spends ‘her money’ (as she calls it). It would be too much emotional warfare that I simply can’t afford.

  2. First, thank you for talking about this and taking it beyond my post.

    Second, I do not believe that support and visitation are equal.

    I think both parents should have to bear some financial responsibility to take care of the children. And, I think it should be split dependent on income with the ability to increase or decrease…maybe every 2 or 3 years, as more money or less money is made.

    Although it is nice to be able to stay home and be mommy when you are married, when you are single, that is not always possible. I happened to luck out and work out of my house, but started to work when I knew divorce was imminent and would have to take care of myself and two children.

    My ex makes boat loads of money, but for years paid the minimum allowed by the state of Texas. He pays not one penny more than he is ordered to pay by the courts. He has his visitation, he takes it when he is in town and that is that. I provide for the rest, and what I can’t provide for, I am lucky that my husband will.

    Child support should be used for the children, but in the end, it all comes out of the same pot. Should a parent go and redo the house? If they can’t afford it, then no, and if they get enough child support to be able to do so, then they are better off than most women I know!

    • Thanks for stopping by! As the comments on your post continue to grow, I’m fascinated by the different perspectives on this issue. In many cases I’ve seen first-hand, men were the ones being taken advantage of.

  3. It is just so hard on the children to be a product of a divorce to begin with, that when money comes to the forefront, they lose once more.

    How unfair for them to lose a former quality of life that they were used to and in turn, both parents also suffer a cut to their quality of life.

    I pay the maximum child support for my state – my choice, but I am forced to live in a ‘less than desireable neighborhood’ apartment building that sometimes, understandably, gives them ‘cabin fever’ – felt most by my oldest at 15 and a constant point of ‘discussion’ with him and a large factor why he sometimes doesn’t want to come over. Pure heartache.

    My children suffer by having less money to go around. The ex suffers for less money to go around, and I suffer for less money to go around.

    I sometimes feel that it would be interesting to investigate further the idea of paying slightly less on the full days when they are with me 100% of the time. But, then again, I am saddened to even think those thoughts when they involve the beings that I helped to create and bring into this world.

    • I don’t know your financial situation, so I’m not speaking about you, specifically…

      I think too many people equate “quality of life” with “standard of living” and the two are not synonymous. If 2 people can’t live together and determine a separation to be the best option for their family, then ultimately this should produce an improvement in everyone’s quality of life. As a child, my life improved when my house stopped serving as a war zone… The tradeoff was less money to go around, but it was worth it. AND I developed much better relationships with both of my parents.

      • I do see your point, and I now realize that I more precisely should have articulated ‘standard of living’ in place of ‘quality of life’.

        It’s what I meant, but didn’t correctly write when talking about having less money to go around post-divorce.

        Thank you.

  4. Anonymous says:

    What about the mother who claims she isn’t getting enough for the kids’ expenses, but refuses to submit their medical bills to her (generous) insurance plan, on which the kids are insured? She then sends nasty emails threatening my partner/her ex husband because he won’t pay half of the full-price-because-I-can’t-be-bothered-to-submit-the-bill-to-insurance amount.

  5. Men are usually the ones people think are to blame when couples get divorced, so I’m sure this insightful blog entry of yours will be an eye-opener for quite a number of people. I know for a fact that in California, a point that applies to child support is support priorities. Child support should always be prioritized greater than spousal support, so this just goes to show that the money being paid for the support of the children should be, well, used for the children. The other spouse’s personal wants and “needs” should be kept out of the picture, I strongly believe. It is unfortunate that some parents are spending their children’s support payments for their personal use and gratification.

    This is such a great post! In fact, I just bookmarked it on StumbleUpon, Delicious, Digg, Reddit and Google bookmarks. Also, while we’re on the topic of child support, I hope you can find the time to read my “California Child Support Payments” article by visiting this link: Thank you very much and I’m definitely looking forward to more posts from you!

  6. […] This will probably be an eye-opener for many of you, but there are many parents who use their children’s support payments for their personal use and gratification. This is very unfortunate, really, and I find taking away something that belongs to your child to be simply wrong. To read more about these situations, read the Divorce Encouragist’s blog post by clicking here. […]

  7. Mandy says:

    In Colorado, the number of overnights with each parent is figured into the formula child support payments – I can’t tell you exactly how it works since my ex and i have a different arrangement but I’ve heard many stories where one parent will seek more overnights because they will have to pay less in child support.

    There isn’t an easy answer or at least I don’t think there is. I almost think that rent, utilities, groceries shouldn’t be figured into child support because then the overnights wouldn’t make a difference but I know that would make it hard for some families.

    But no … child support is not for spa visits etc.

  8. Lori says:

    I struggle with the monetary issue – I spent three years at home with my children (a choice we made as a couple). I was fortunate to find a job in my field close to home and I make a decent living. That said, I would not be able to afford the marital home without child support (especially as I have to pay child care now). He is supposed to pay half of activities and I was not holding him to that initially. Then, when I requested he pay half the fees to remove him from the mortgage, he flipped and claimed that was all MY responsibility. As well as the fact I paid all the mediator fees out of the HELOC. At which point I had to bust out with “oh, yeah, here are all the things I HAVEN’T made you pay.” It can be very hard to be a decent person with the person who is convinced you are trying to screw them because you are standing up for your rights.

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