There is not one specific “list” of acceptable or unacceptable ways to spend child support. The concept of child support was meant to make sure the child has its essential needs met, like food, clothing, and shelter. However, there are many different ways a parent can use child support, such as on utility payments, car payments, or even savings for future education. At the most basic level, the court is trying to ensure that between them, the parents’ resources are allocated such that the child is properly cared for in each household. They are trying to prevent a situation in which one parent has significant resources and the other parent can’t make rent or drive the child to school. This isn’t to say the court demands each parent spend exactly the same amount on a house or clothes, or that there won’t be any discrepancy in lifestyle, but at minimum, the child should be adequately cared for in both homes.
It's all about the child
But what happens if you think child support payments aren’t being used to support the child? Surely the parent receiving child support should have to account for how they’re spending it, right? The short answer is no. Texas doesn’t have a legal framework or system that allows a parent to request this information. Of course, if co-parents have an amicable relationship, this information might be readily disclosed and discussed. But if the parent doesn’t answer a request of this sort, there’s no method of enforcement. The court’s assumption is that the money is going toward care for the child.
It might seem “unfair” to the paying parent, but if they have significant resources and a high standard of living, their child support payments might allow the other parent to have a new and improved lifestyle as well. However, as long as the child gets to share in this, that’s all that matters to the court. Where things become dicey is if a parent paying child support suspects the other parent isn’t providing basic needs for the child. If there is evidence of neglect, this no longer is an issue of child support, but instead becomes an issue of custody. If the custody order changes, this can then be a basis for also changing the child support order. But even then, any requests for an accounting of base child support won’t be enforced by the court.
Different types of support
Everything discussed above applies to base child support payments, but this is only one type of child support. Base child support does not need to be accounted for by the receiving parent, however, it’s a different story when it comes to child support add-on expenses like medical costs and educational expenses. In most orders, one parent (usually the non-custodial parent) is ordered to maintain a health insurance plan, but that still doesn’t account for uninsured expenses, like co-pays or emergencies, which parents are generally ordered to equally share. These expenses must be tracked and accounted for because they are payments that should legally only be reimbursed upon proof that the other parent paid for the expense.
It’s all about the details
In Texas, both parties need to be mindful of the deadlines for requesting and reimbursing additional child support orders. Generally, the parent who paid for the expense should use a reliable method to inform the other parent of the expense within 30 days of incurring the expense. They should provide the other parent an itemized statement of the charges, giving the obligating parent 30 days to reimburse their one-half obligation. These strict timelines are imposed in order to prevent a situation in which one parent collects a large amount of expenses, surprising the other parent with a huge bill. Or the reverse situation, where the owing parent takes months to repay the parent who is out of pocket.
SupportPay Can Help
A solution like SupportPay can help parents easily communicate and track these expenses, reducing the likelihood they will become confused, angry with each other, or end up in court. An added benefit of using a tech platform to track these requests is ensuring each request is proper per the order. Imagine a situation where the child support order only includes add-ons for shared medical expenses and day care. One day, the custodial parent requests reimbursement for private school tuition, and the obligating parent doesn’t agree to reimburse. A Judge would want to see this correspondence to determine whether the expense is proper per the court order. SupportPay easily produces the correspondence for the Judge, who could then determine that request invalid and unenforceable.