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?