It is common to hear misleading stories about custodial parents using child support money to treat themselves to all manner of luxuries. However, while there are no hard and fast rules regarding what child support can be used for, parents who receive support do have some leeway, and trying to police or micromanage the support you pay may not end well for you.
Requirements Are Nonspecific
There is no law in Illinois that requires recipient parents to account for every penny of child support received. However, the state’s child support guidelines, which are used in most divorces, establish a baseline amount deemed appropriate to keep a child or children in a style comparable to the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage, and the obligor should be able to estimate roughly what is necessary, and if the child or children are being neglected. Beyond that, it is simply not possible for most parents to account for every penny.
Child support is supposed to cover food, housing, and clothing, but even those terms are amorphous at best. Also, such a bare description does not address the occasional add-ons that either simply appear in the course of regular life or are ordered by the court to be split between the parents—such as extracurricular activity costs or school-related fees like tuition for older children. A more accurate description would be the three categories above plus extra additions that are in the best interest of the child.
If You Suspect Misuse
If you do begin to suspect that your ex-spouse is misusing your support money, you do have options, but you should be aware that a court will likely not do very much unless you are able to show that the misuse is negatively affecting your children. Receiving parents are simply given a great deal of discretion because children’s needs change. However, there are signs to look for that may support your case. For example, if your child constantly lacks staples like shoes and underwear, or if they are not receiving needed medical care, it may be cause enough to bring the issue to the court’s attention.
In an extreme case, if you are able to prove that your children are being neglected, you may be able to petition for a modification of your support order. Normally, a support order may be modified only every three years, or if a substantial change in circumstances can be shown by the parent seeking modification. However, if you can hold your ex-spouse in contempt of court or show that they are not fulfilling their duties, you should be able to obtain a more favorable support arrangement or even custody of your children.
Need Help Understanding Child Support Expenditures?
Though child support has been simplified somewhat by the introduction of income-based guidelines, it can still be complex and confusing. Consulting one of our DuPage County child support attorneys can help answer your questions and clear your mind. Contact our office today to set up an initial appointment.