My Ex Is Living Off Child Support

Divorce attorneys often hear frustrated dads upset that they have to keep paying more and more child support while the ex-wife barely works and appears to be living off the child support payments. The questions are common:

  • She wants more and more of my income as I start making more money. How is this fair?
  • Why is it that I have to keep working hard to pay their bills while she barely keeps a part-time job and lives off of my money?
  • I thought child support was meant to provide the wife and children with a similar lifestyle they were used to during the marriage? When we lived together, they weren’t used to a lifestyle since I wasn’t making the kind of money I am currently, so why am I supposed to provide it for them now?

Continue reading for the answers to the questions posed to Cordell & Cordell attorney Andrea Miller.


In North Carolina, where I practice, the goal of child support is to have the children be supported as they would have been supported in an intact marriage.  You are obligated to support your children throughout their life until they reach the age of emancipation, which varies from state-to-state.

In order to effectuate the goal of providing the children with what they would have received had there not been a breakup of the marriage, the courts will go back and look at modifying the child support if the non-custodial parent is earning more money. The court’s goal is not to subsidize your ex-wife, but rather your children.

If you feel that your ex-wife is decreasing her ability to provide in disregard of her parental duties, you can try to do a modification of child support in that regard. Keep in mind however, that you must offer into evidence that fact that the children’s needs have changed to warrant a modification.

All in all there is a possibility that a judge could order you to pay more child support because you have more earning potential and can better provide for your children. Had you and your ex-wife not divorced, the children would have benefited from your increase in salary.


Andrea Miller is a Staff Attorney in the Charlotte, N.C., office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C., where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Miller is licensed in the state of North Carolina. Ms. Miller received her undergraduate degree in History and her Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  While in law school, she on the Client Counseling Team for Moot Court and became a board member. Ms. Miller also participated in UNC’s Legal Assistance Clinic whereby she helped represent indigent clients obtain legal counsel primarily in the area of domestic relations.

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12 comments on “My Ex Is Living Off Child Support

    There is another option.

    Because your ex-wife is voluntarily unemployed, you can ask the court to relabel the transfer payment as Undifferentiated Family Support, which is a mixture of child support and alimony, and is treated like alimony for tax purposes.

    You could also use a shared checking account like this one ( that provides a form of accountability both to the parents and the courts while providing for the children’s needs.

    As for me, I’m fighting for shared physical custody, but I have a family court judge who has stated in open court both that she I am going to pay the full, guideline amount of child support because I am not going to be allowed to become a ‘deadbeat’, and that ‘children belong with the mother’.

    Alright so my girlfriend and I were together for about a month. I was 20 at the time and she was 21. By the new year she was pregnant with my baby. We’ve been on each other’s good sides lately but throughout her pregnancy we’ve argued more than ever. Maybe it’s her hormones but I honestly don’t know. I want to see myself marry her but right now we are both still kinda young. After she got knocked up she was scared and quit her job, I took on the responsible role and got my first job. We’ve just recently got into another heated argument and the last time it happened she threatened me with child support. Now I am at the level where she doesn’t have a job and says she’s gonna get one and saying after she will not need me. I’m mentally getting myself for a custody battle with this girl. I just need to know what is to expect in the near future. How’s my boy gonna look at me ? She’s due by October for sure , She’s 8 months and 1/2.

    Here’s what to expect in the near future she will go to to the child support office and they will give her anything she wants and charge you a ungodly amount of money enough to realistically take care of 3 kids instead of one because they don’t want her running to the government for any financial help they would rather use you as a scapegoat and charge you enough to take care of her to a few of my friends have to pay it and I couldn’t believe how much was taken out of there checks way more than it takes to raise a kid it’s basically a mild form of slavery they take away your kid and will hardly give you anytime with them take a huge chunk of your check and if you can’t pay they throw you in jail because that’s what’s best for the kids for there dads to go to jail and be in poverty because of them.

    The Court’s ENTIRE goal is to subsidize the ex!
    The courts can say whatever they want, but when I’m paying enough money to support the COMFORTABLE lives of TWO human beings when I only had one child, I am subsidizing my ex.

    It is ridiculous that there is no cap limit on support. It is infuriating that men continue to be beaten over the head with lawsuits to increase child support while the courts stand by like a suited goon with a baseball bat to enforce this extortion!

    I have no problem paying (within reason) for may child, but I will be damned if I’m going to support the existence of an ambulatory, young, capable Human Being, because she’d rather defraud me through the courts than make an honest living.

    Long story short: In the United States, it doesn’t matter if you’re a responsible father! It doesn’t matter if you take an active interest and financial interest in your child! IF YOU ARE A MAN, YOU ARE A VILLAIN! IF YOU ARE A MAN, YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO CIVIL RIGHTS REGARDING YOUR CHILD! IF YOU ARE A MAN, YOU WILL NEVER BE TREATED FAIRLY IN A FAMILY COURT!

    Best interest of the child? That’s rich! If they were really concerned with the best interest of the child then they’d award custody to the father who is obviously better suited, financially, to raise them in comfort!

    It makes me angry that, because of the courts ruining my fatherhood experience, I have to keep repeating to myself “it’s not my daughter’s fault. I shouldn’t resent her for this.” Because of the courts ruining my fatherhood experience, I have nothing but regrets for having ever had a child in the first place.

    I have since gotten myself fixed so I can NEVER have another child!

    SSDI and non working parent
    I was on ssdi before my ex and I broke up. When I moved out on of the first things I did was visit the social security office to see if I could get more funds added to the children’s benefits, because I didn’t think the current amount was enough to support them. In the two years now, that I haven’t lived with them, my ex has yet to get a job, and has been living off of their ssdi benefits. Since she hasn’t moved since we split, I know that her monthly rent exceeds the combined amount of both the children’s ssdi checks. Any time she starts to feel a pinch, (like when our daughter needed glasses, and more recently when she was/is behind in her rent), she calls MY mother to complain that I don’t pay child support, and that the ssdi isn’t enough. Is there anything that can be done to ensure my children are being cared for financially? We never went to court for custody, or visitation, should I go that route instead? I know this thread is two years old, I hope someone is still listening.

    I believe we must band together, join legal forces and getting a massive and swift movement started to turn the judicial system around on these issues of fathers who work, keep 50% custody, pay for EVERYTHING, and can get penalized simply because the childrens mother decides to VERBALLY say she is owed money without ANY due diligence done on the part of the state. The current situation is this: Men/Fathers who are divorced are GUILTY of everything they stand accused of, until they take the time, money and energy away from more important things like parenting and working, to prove they’re NOT guilty. When will the women who are reaping many of the financial benefits be held accountable on any level for what they do with their time and all that money. It’s ludicrous, insane and totally upside down. Change needs to happen right now on this. Now.

    I have 50/50 custody with my first child. Her mother and i had exact incomes for about 3 years and now she quit her job and makes $14K a year. I did not have child support payments until now. She self impovished herself so she can sit at a pool all summer and not work. My lawyer proved she self impoverrihed herself by having her boss testify, however they still make me pay $1200 a month and are making me pay the $800 for private school. This leaves no money for my mortgage and no food for my current wife, 3 year old, and 1 month old son. I wish I can become a dead beat like her but the courts will hold me to an earning capacity.

    Voluntarily Unemployed
    In most states the Courts do have the ability to impute income to a party if the Court believes that the party is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. You would need to show the Court that she is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed.

    ex refuses to work
    What if the ex states she “refuses” to get a job (in writing) and to make “side money” does constant yard sales (ads caught of the sales). My ex moves from guy to guy where the guy pays for everything (house, utilities, car, car insurance, etc.) What would you do in this regard?

    that’s the problem though
    that’s the whole problem. the idea of the “intact family” and what they WOULD have had is simply a false premise set up with the concept of CS, largely because the beneficiaries are women. I have younger children with my new wife and can assure you, in no “intact family” would one child receive so much financial consideration. Also, in any “intact family” each parent (particularly the “breadwinner” as old fashioned as the notion may be) would have a say in how the money is spent and how MUCH money is spent.

    None of that holds true. It is simply a notion that continues because women make up the majority of custodial parents. As we chip away at that percentage, expect such notions to be challenged more and more (by women no doubt) and to quietly receive less consideration.

    Do I have a say in how child support is being used?
    Generally, the paying parent does not have any say in regards to what child support is being used for so long as the child is being provided for. Most states have a formula for calculating support which takes into consideration the income of the parties and the placement schedule. 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.

    Yes, but wasn’t the question is what do you do when you feel the wife is using the child support for herself, not to take care of the kids, for HER clothes, travel, entertainment…
    Thanks! HSD

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