It’s no one’s business how you spend your child support

Posted on Jan 25, 2023 by Katie Carter

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but people LOVE to tell other people what to do and how to spend their money, and that definitely includes child support.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that a mom should have to account to dad for how the child support is spent each month. In these cases, these people are usually of the opinion that the mom should basically be required to turn over all of her bank account statements so that her child’s father can go through them and determine – for himself, mind you – exactly which expenses he deems legitimate.

Can you even imagine? To me, it screams about judicial efficiency – how many hours are we going to spend combing through some poor woman’s bank account statements to determine how many trips to Chick-fil-A are allowed in a given month? – but it’s also a question of autonomy.

Do we also expect dads to turn over their bank account statements so we can determine whether he has the ability to pay MORE in support?

After all, if mom can’t go to Chick fil A, maybe he shouldn’t spend so much time at Hooters.

I’m being cliché. It doesn’t really matter whether or how the money is spent – by either party. It doesn’t matter if we think he’s spending too much money on hunting and fishing equipment, or if he thinks that she’s spending too much getting her hair and nails done. That’s actually one of the key points of having a guideline figure when it comes to child support. Based on the combined incomes of the parties, we determine a particular, statutorily defined level of support that the parents can maintain. Whether – and how – they afford to pay that child support, or how they budget it once it’s received, is more or less irrelevant.

Even still, I have moms as clients who seem to think that giving their child’s father this information will help. “I have nothing to hide,” they tell me. But, to a dad who is hellbent on demonstrating that his child support isn’t being spent appropriately (though probably what he views as appropriate would more or less just equate to being significantly less in amount), he’s going to rip through your bank statements and point out all the places he thinks you can economize – and then present that to the judge.

Silence, on the other hand, gives him nothing to work with. It’s easy to be the critic when it comes to someone else’s spending, but not so easy to have it done to you. So you have a $5 latte habit? So you spend too much on plants? Is your grocery bill a little too high? Do you REALLY need to buy gluten free?

You see how quickly it can avalanche, right? When someone else is in a position of telling you what and how you should be able to spend your money, they have a ton of power. And, besides, who ever decided that he was the one who got to determine what was or wasn’t appropriate? It’s not like you’re legally mandated to have a standard of living that doesn’t ever exceed dad’s, because then he’d feel sad about the support he has to pay! It’s not like you should be expected to live a life of completely practical frugality for so long as you’re receiving child support!

Besides, it’s not like child support is excessive or particularly generous. Probably, if you were to account for your rent or mortgage, your groceries, your childcare, the children’s clothes, and your utilities each month, you’d be well beyond what you receive in child support. But you shouldn’t even share that information, because he’s bound to say that you buy too many clothes, that you could get them cheaper at Wal-Mart, that you should have three outfits per child each and just wash them each night, or something else ridiculous. And why give him the satisfaction?

He doesn’t have to turn over his bank account statements, and neither should you. If you’re hoping that by doing so you’ll convince him that you’re spending the child support money wisely, you’re likely to be mistaken – and to have the information that you shared in good faith thrown in your face whenever your child’s father starts to feel down on himself because he can’t afford as much as he’d like because of his child support responsibilities.

Child support isn’t a punishment. It’s not money paid to you for your enjoyment. It’s money that you receive to help cover the costs of raising the children on a day-to-day basis. And, if you have children, you’re spending that money! And, though it’s none of his business, I’m sure you’re spending it to the absolute best of your ability.

For more information, or to request a copy of our custody book for Virginia women, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.