In Virginia, child support is designed to help the custodial parent manage the cost of having primary responsibility for raising the children. Since the custodial parent is responsible for the majority of the day-to-day expenses, like food and clothing, many parents really depend on the child support money to make ends meet.
The child support formula in Virginia is based on only a couple of factors: the income of both parents, the cost of work-related child care, and the cost of health insurance for the children. If your child’s father is already paying child support for another child from a different relationship, that amount will also factor in to the formula. As you have probably already noticed, the formula does not take into account any other expenditures you may make on behalf of the child, including the costs of extra curricular activities. The formula is definitely not overly-generous.
Still, there are many non-custodial parents (usually dads) who balk at their child support obligation. Of course, this is incredibly frustrating, because he should have to share in the financial responsibility of raising the children he fathered—the responsibility shouldn’t all fall on your shoulders! Still, you can probably imagine how he must feel every month when he writes a check out to you—not to the children—and just hopes that you’ll use it appropriately. Most men assume the worst, that their child’s mother is out getting her hair and nails done on his dime.
You and I both know that this isn’t the case. Most single mothers are barely scraping by, and whatever child support they get is immediately eaten up in rent or mortgage payments, utilities, school and day care costs.
Lots of dads request that their child’s mother provide them with an accounting of how their child support money was spent. In Virginia, there is no law requiring that you do this. This can be a difficult conversation to have with your child’s father, especially because there’s always going to be some tension. You need the money, and he doesn’t want to pay it.
It’s best to have open and honest discussion about the money and where it’s going, if that’s possible. Still, you don’t have to tolerate accusations and demands from your child’s father. He doesn’t have the right to ask that you spend the money in any particular way, nor does he have the right to have complete knowledge of your personal checkbook. Try to find a midway point, if you can, between complete disclosure about your finances and total nondisclosure, in order to facilitate cooperative coparenting.