When a marriage ends in divorce and that couple has children, the parent who has primary residential custody is often/frequently the parent who receives child support from the non-custodial parent. We often hear a lot of grumbling from non-custodial parents about how much child support they are forced to pay, and about their suspicions about how the primary residential parent is spending the child support they receive. Occasionally a parent who pays child support will comment that when their child comes to visit, they mention that they need new shoes, or new clothes, or money to participate in a school event.
Non-custodial parents wonder why there is no accountability for how the receiving parent spends the money they receive. Further complicating the issue, a custodial parent might be driving a new car, or they may have moved into a new place leaving the non-custodial parent to scratch their head in wonder about where their money is going.
The challenge of requiring proof of how custodial parents spend child support
It would create a tremendous burden on the family court system if the parent receiving child support had to account for how they spend every dollar of child support they received. It would also be an invasion of that parent’s privacy to allow their ex to have access to their monthly financials just so that they can feel content that their money is being spent in a way that they approve.
Child support is intended to contribute to the child’s living expenses including food, clothing and shelter in such a way as to maintain a standard of living as comparable as possible to when the family was intact. Maryland uses Child Support Guidelines to calculate how much child support is paid and it is based on several factors, including each parent’s actual and adjusted monthly income (adjusted to account for previous child support obligations and alimony payments), work-related child care expenses, extraordinary medical expenses and any other pertinent factors that the court might consider. MD Code Family Law §12–201
The custodial parent may have to spend some of the child support payment on housing expenses to afford accommodations large enough to house the child and his/her belongings. Children are expensive, and a non-custodial parent looking from the outside in might not be fully aware of the true costs of raising a child on one income.
What if you suspect spending irregularities?
In cases where the child looks unkempt, like they may be suffering from neglect, or like they might be living in unsafe conditions, or if you have evidence that the custodial parent is misappropriating the child support they receive, you can work with a family law attorney who will petition the court for an investigation.
While there is no requirement in Maryland that custodial parents account for the child support payments they receive from non-custodial parents, the paying parent does have legal recourse if they suspect that their child is being neglected despite their paying child support every month.
Are you a non-custodial parent who is feeling suspicious about how your child’s custodial parent is spending the child support you pay each month, an experienced Annapolis family law attorney from Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC can help. Please call us at 410.921.2422 to schedule a consultation, or complete our contact form. We proudly represent families throughout Maryland.