What Does Child Support Actually Cover?

child supportBy Matt Allen

Editor, DadsDivorce.com

You’ve arrived home from work and as you sort through the day’s mail you see there’s a note from your ex-wife asking for payment for Tommy’s new baseball uniforms and asking you to pick up some new clothes and toiletry items for Susie when she comes to stay with you next weekend.

But wait a minute; you’ve paid your child support this month and on time like you have every other payment.

With all the money you are paying for child support, why are you being asked to provide additional support to cover these other expenses?

It begs the question, what does child support cover?

Obviously the laws determining what child expenses are not included in the direct child support vary by state, but in general, extracurricular activities, uninsured medical expenses and educational expenses are NOT included in the basic child support amount unless specifically included in a settlement agreement, according to Cordell & Cordell partner Spencer Williams.

He said child support generally covers food, clothing and shelter-type expenses.

How Much Should You Be Paying?

State Child Support Calculators

But when you’re asked to cover expenses you think child support should be covering, you need to think of child support differently, said Michigan Divorce Lawyer Jennifer Paine, another Cordell & Cordell attorney.

“Parents tend to think about child support as a one-way street: I pay support to you for our children, and you are responsible for using that money to support our children,” Paine said. “Most state child support schemes, however, calculate child support as a two-way street: you pay support to me and I to you, and we pool the support and each take a share.”

While your child support payments are generally a set amount, the calculations used to reach that amount are largely guesstimates of the amount of support a child needs to needs to sustain a standard of living near the marital standard of living, according to Paine.

child support divorceSo the support you pay is only the share your kids need while they are with your ex-wife. You are still responsible for support during your time, just as your ex-wife is still responsible for support during her time.

“As my father said after my sister crashed our first car in high school, you can never know completely when and how much your children will cost you,” Paine said.

Paine warns to be cautious, though. Remember to track your spending during your parenting time if you believe your ex-wife is not using the support you pay to actually support your kids.

Keep a journal of what your kids bring to parenting time and what they end up needing from you during parenting time. Keep receipts of what you buy and request reimbursement for an amount you think is reasonable.

Are you constantly spending a lot of money on everyday items your kids have such as toothpaste or underwear?

“If you are purchasing ordinary items, this may be a sign that your ex-wife is not using the support properly,” Paine said. “You may have reason to investigate and to motion your court for contempt against her for diverting support.”

When you meet with your attorney, be sure to bring your original divorce decree to show what factors the court took into consideration when setting the original support amount.

For more information on child support laws and how much you should be paying, contact Cordell & Cordell to speak to an attorney in your state.

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125 Comments on "What Does Child Support Actually Cover?"

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Mark L
20 days 4 hours ago
Going through a divorce and my wife moved out around Easter this year. She took our 3 kids with her and they live with her parents free of charge. No mortgage, no rent, no utilities. My wife’s parents also watch the kids free of charge. Therefore she has no transportation expense taking the kids to daycare. Meanwhile, I’m stuck paying the mortgage and all of the utilities on our marital property. Is it possible the court will deviate downwards on child support to a lesser amount? Any insight would be appreciated.
Damian Roberts
1 month 10 days ago

My ex wife deliberately encouraged my 15 yo daughter to stop seeing me so she could get more money from child support. She is now encouraging this daughter move interstate (ACT) to attend another high school and live with her cousin in the ACT as she attends this school, all without consultation or mediation with me. Is this possible and how does my daughter living arrangements while attending this school interstate affect my child support payments as she will not be living with her mother either

1 month 26 days ago
I am in the process of having child support modified. My son is 21 & in the military & my daughter is 19, living on her own, working full time, & going to school. The only child remaining is 16 that I’ll have to pay for. When their mother was served, she threatened to counter sue for 15 years of co-pays & school supplies. She ran off with out children to a different county after our divorce. I have been back in their lives since 2010 & helping as much as possible with school clothes, vehicles, school supplies, and ect.… Read more »
2 months 19 days ago

In my divorce decree it states I need to pay for insurance on a specific type of car my ex wife had. She has since gotten a new car. Do I have to pay the insurance on the newer car or just what the insurance was on the older car & she pays the difference.

3 months 17 hours ago

Hello, I pay child support for our two kids and for extracurricular activities. My eldest son has music classes at school (he receives grades for it as part of the school curriculum). My ex wife asks me to contribute to te rental of the trombone.

Should this be part of the child support or considered an extracurricular activity, though it’s part of the school curriculum?

Thank you

9 months 13 days ago

Just a quick question, do I still have to pay child support for my 16 year old son who is currently living in an in-patient facility because he’s a troubled kid. The Ex has custody of him but sent him off to live in this facility for 1 year. My health insurance is paying for his living expenses and food. Should I still be paying child support?

10 months 11 days ago
This world is so broken. Marriage was never meant to be broken. Read the bible. Is it any surprise there is so much drama from divorce remarriage etc. It was not part of Gods plan. Yet we got ourselves into a mess and want an easy way out. My ex cheated and left us. He tried to avoid payments, forgot and tried to use my very compassionate side to get out of paying. He never pays for tutoring classes or camp. He didnt want the kids so I have the kids full time. He comes visits them in my rental… Read more »
9 months 7 days ago
There are good fathers just as there are bad fathers. My husband’s ex-wife did everything she could to keep him from seeing their child. In addition to that, she raked him over the coals for child support and tried to get day care expenses factored into the ordered support amount even though she wasn’t taking their son to day care. She continuously demands money for this, that, and the other. Every other weekend when we have my stepson there is some kind of ridiculous battle, and it all boils down to money. She went so far as to tell my… Read more »
11 months 4 days ago

In the divorce documents my ex wife is required to pay half of dental expenses and kids school lunch balance and she isnt doing it, what are my options?

1 year 28 days ago
I am a step mother to three kids, one of whom is still a minor. Their mother lives on food stamps and in Section 8 housing. She refuses to work so you can imagine how much child support means to her. She has the kids on Medicare. I have a good job with employer-sponsored health and dental coverage. I would like to add the kids to my plan so they have better health insurance, but I fear that their mother will not pay half the premiums and half the expenses that insurance will not cover, although the divorce decree states… Read more »
1 year 1 month ago
I settled a divorce through a mediation. At the time of my divorce, my ex wife was working and her salary was pro-rated into the CS formula where the difference between the two were equated. She quit her job about a year ago and I just recently re-evaluated my CS payments as it has been 3 yrs since the initial mediation and my salary has increased. The new CS increase I am given is now not taking her past salary into the equation. I’m thinking it doesn’t matter if she quits her job as I did read up online for… Read more »