If you have a child support order, you might be wondering what you should do with the money you receive. Your instinct might be that you need to spend the money directly on your children. And, in general, that would be correct. The first goal of child support, is to take care of your children's basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities. However, sometimes, both parents make enough money that they can take care of these needs without child support, but, since the difference in income is so large, or because of a big difference in timeshare, there is still a child support order. You don't have to spend that money directly on your children and shower them with lavish expensive gifts. Of course, you should make a conscious effort to use the money to make your children's lives better, but this can manifest in different ways. The secondary goal of child support is to create an environment at both homes that is similar to what the children would experience if the parties were together, so spending that child support money on upgrading your home, or buying more expensive food, can be a reasonable use of child support. As long as the funds are in some way improving the lives of your children, your use of the child support money is typically discretionary, and you don't need to keep track of the payments or show proof with the court. Long story short, as long as you are meeting your children's needs, you shouldn't worry about where you directly spend your child support.
One of the most contentious areas of family law is child custody and visitation. When parents split up, they often have a lot of animosity towards each other. This can cause parents to be very critical about the parenting skills of their ex. This can cause a lot of stress and anxiety about how each person is parenting.
I would suggest that parents re-evaluate the way they think about the parenting of their ex. Try to think about how you would feel if you were still with your ex and this particular concern occurred. Would you laugh at the story and teach them a lesson for the future? Or would you be truly concerned and have to sternly address the issue? Would you really care that the kids spent time with their grandparents instead of their dad if you were in a relationship with dad? Maybe if it were for multiple hours every day and the kids were not attended to, but if it was one weekend so that your ex could go play golf with friends for a little, is that really so bad? For another example, maybe your ex got lost driving the kids home from a soccer tournament, and as a result, the kids were an hour late to their cousin's birthday party. This would likely be one of those laughter/learning moments, but many parents would not be so forgiving when it comes to their former partner/spouse.
Where this factors into the law, is that many parents try to use these laughter/learning moments in court pleadings and custody/visitation arguments. This can be a waste of everyone's time and money, and ultimately, the custody order is unlikely to change. You should only really use the court for those truly concerning events that you are worried about. This can include issues that are effecting your children's behavior and causing extreme lifestyle changes. Re-focusing your perspective on your ex's parenting can really help you get to a place where you can happily co-parent, which is what is ultimately in the best interests of your children.
Maria E. Crabtree, CFLS