One of the complaints we hear most often is “the other parent doesn’t spend my child support payments on the child.” We certainly understand that it can be very frustrating for non-custodial parents to pay child support each and every month. This is particularly true if (a) the amount of money paid is significant, (b) it impacts the payor’s budget in a noticeable way, and/or (c) you disagree with the other parent’s spending habits.
First, child support money can essentially be spent on anything, and there are few if any laws around the country setting specific spending limits on how child support is used. While child support is meant to pay for children’s basic needs, including housing, food, and clothing. Beyond these basic needs, support is also typically used to cover things like school fees, music lessons, sports, and other extracurricular activities – not to mention the transportation expense getting children to and from these.
Though child support is meant to cover all of these many and varied needs, it is up to the custodial parent who receives the money to decide how best to spend it. As mentioned above, it is often frustrating to think about turning money over to your ex and having no control over how it’s spent, prompting many people to wonder about whether there are any reporting or accounting requirements.
In Massachusetts, custodial parents do not have to submit an accounting of how they spend the child support payments. Even though it may appear that the other parents may be spending the child support payments on themselves, the Court will be extremely reluctant to get involved so long as the child’s needs are being met. Courts do not have the time, ability, or desire to monitor such spending, so parents are given the freedom to make such decisions for themselves, except perhaps in clear cases that the money is being misused to the child’s detriment.