It is a common misconception today that child support payments are only intended to cover the very basic necessities of a child. In reality, a noncustodial parent is required to make payments to the custodial parent to ensure that the child maintains the same standard of living as they would have if both parents lived together. When the noncustodial parent has a low earning capacity or has extenuating circumstances that limit their ability to contribute financially, their child support order might very well only account for basic living expenses. However, it’s just as common for child support orders to cover non-essential expenses. 

If you have any concerns about how your child support payments are being spent, or if you believe that your child’s other parent is not contributing enough, it’s recommended that you speak with a child support lawyer, such as one from Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC.

What is child support supposed to cover?

  • Basic living expenses: This is the core of any child support order. Basic living expenses include food, clothing, and housing. This money may also be spent on costs associated with basic living expenses, such as electricity bills and telephone bills. The courts usually do not monitor how the custodial parent spends this money, but may do so if the noncustodial parent argues that the money is being misspent. 
  • Educational expenses: Children who attend public schools might not have many educational expenses, but if a child attends a private school with tuition, then child support payments will likely take this into consideration. Additionally, some states include college tuition in child support orders, even though the child will be a legal adult and the rest of the child support order may end. If the child chooses not to pursue any higher education program, the court may rule that the noncustodial parent doesn’t have to continue making payments. 
  • Medical care: Medical expenses may or may not be included in a child support order. Even in households where the parents live together, it’s common for children to be covered under just one parent’s healthcare plan. If the child has extenuating medical needs that go beyond the scope of standard medical care, then these costs may be included. 
  • Childcare: If the child is too young to be in school or needs to attend after-school care, this will usually be included in a child support order. These expenses might cover daycare on a daily basis or might just apply to vacations and holidays when the child isn’t in school. 
  • Extracurricular activities and Entertainment: Many courts will also consider the parent’s ability to pay for entertainment, such as vacations and toys, and extracurricular activities that fall outside the child’s school activities, such as music lessons or summer camps. The amount of money that goes into the child’s entertainment will depend on how much each parent can contribute. If the noncustodial parent has a low income earning potential and cannot contribute much beyond payments for the child’s basic needs, then money for entertainment would likely be very minimal. 

It’s important to remember that the exact disbursal of a child support order will depend on the child’s needs and on the parents’ ability to contribute financially. You’ll want to contact a child support lawyer if you have concerns about your situation.