If my ex is not using child support for basic necessities, can I give that money directly to my kids?

Divorce Attorney Angela FoyQuestion:

We pay child support for my two stepsons who are both over 18 years old, but my husband’s divorce decree states he will pay support up to age 25 as long as they are in school and living at home.

We don’t mind supporting the kids, but we found out recently that none of the child support is being used for basic expenses such as gas, clothes, etc. Just last night the older boy told us there was no food in the house!

Can we stop giving her child support and open an account for the kids so they can use that money?


Most likely, the current order requires that the money be paid to the children’s mother.  You may be able to seek to modify the order. Modifying child support, in most jurisdictions, requires a material change in the circumstances upon which the ordered payments were predicated.  I do not practice in Illinois, so I can only speak in generalities based on my experience.

In general, the support money belongs to the parent receiving the support, not the children themselves.  The caveat would be that the court could find that the recipient parent was incapable or unwilling to wisely spend the child support. In that case, the court may be willing to dictate how those funds are spent.

However, in my experience, the court intervening in that way is very rare, so the evidence against the recipient parent would need to be significant. You may have grounds if you can show that the support you are paying is sufficient, yet the children’s basic needs are going unmet.

By opening the door to modification, you may be at risk to increasing the support amount. If the children’s needs are not being met, the court may find that the support amount should be increased.

In addition, you may also open an account for the children for specific uses, but until the current order is changed by stipulation or determination of the court, it cannot take the place of the ordered child support.

The likelihood of modifying the order depends on the specific order, the facts of your case, and the laws in your jurisdiction.  I do not practice in Illinois, so I cannot inform you as to the state’s specific laws.  I encourage you to speak with a domestic litigation attorney in Illinois.  Cordell & Cordell has attorneys that are licensed and located in Illinois, and they would be happy to discuss your case with you.


Angela Foy is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisc., office of Cordell & Cordell where her primary practice is exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Ms. Foy is licensed to practice in the state of Wisconsin, the U.S. District Court, and the Eastern District of Wisconsin. 

 Ms. Foy received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the University of Notre Dame. She then continued on to receive her Juris Doctor from Marquette University.

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