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What can you use child support to pay?

Child support can be a touchy issue between divorced parents. While child support is designed to represent the noncustodial parent's contribution to the child's keep, the paying parent may feel like their support is really a secret benefit that's paid to their ex.

Some of the perception comes from misunderstandings about what child support can (and cannot) be used to pay. If you're unsure whether or not the child support you're paying is really being used appropriately, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Does your child have appropriate food, shelter and clothing?

The child support payments that you make essentially become part of your ex-spouse's "household" money. They're specifically designed to do that because your child shouldn't have to suffer unnecessary deprivations simply because you and their other parent are no longer a couple.

If your child has shelter, is clothed and receives enough food, it can be very difficult to prove that your ex-spouse is misusing the money.

2. Is there a specific need that your support was never intended to cover?

Not every child support agreement takes into account the changing needs of a child over the years or circumstances that could add to a child's expenses. If your support doesn't include the extra funds for something like computer camp or music lessons, you can't expect your ex-spouse to pay for those things out of your regular support.

If your child has a specific need that isn't being met with the existing support, you may have to negotiate a fair agreement with your ex to cover the expenses outside of support.

3. Do you really know your ex-spouse's financial situation?

Appearances can be deceptive. You have no way of knowing if that expensive coat your ex was wearing was a gift or a thrift store find. Don't assume that your support is funding a lavish lifestyle unless you have all the facts.

Child support issues can crop up long after a divorce is final. If you're concerned about your child support payments -- or what you receive in support, find out more about your legal options.

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Cunningham Law Office is a family law-focused firm in Missoula, Montana. We serve Missoula, Ravalli County, and the surrounding area.