The number one question I receive is why the child support recipient does not have to account for spending.
How Support Is Calculated In New York
Support is calculated by multiplying the combined parental income (income of both parties) by the appropriate child support percentage (17% for one child, 25% for two, 29% for three, 31% for four and 35% for five or more).
The custodial parent is typically the parent that the children live with most of the time and they are the recipient of child support. The non-custodial parent is the parent that pays.
How Child Support Can Be Used
I think the confusion lies in the misconceptions about what child support is supposed to cover.
Some believe that child support should go directly to the children or only cover the child's bare necessities, such as food and clothing. But in reality, child support is used to meet the financial needs of the child and to attempt to maintain the child's standard of living.
This means that support can cover a broad range of expenses including expenses to maintain the household or other expenses that affect the child's standard of living.
Why Courts Don't Require Proof Of How Payments Are Used
One reason courts typically don't require proof of how payments are used is because of the of the huge waste of time and resources required to enforce this.
It would be very difficult to prove if support or the custodial parent's income was used to make a purchase. And very invasive to constantly have the noncustodial parent constantly analyzing the custodial parent's expenses.
Courts like finality and requiring proof of how payments are used leaves the door open to people bringing their ex back to court every time they make a new purchase.
In most cases, child support is only a fraction of the cost of raising a child so monitoring the spending of the custodial parent would cause more problems than it solves.
When An Accounting Of Spending Is Necessary
In the rare instance that the basic needs of your child are not being met, you have recourse. Before petitioning to the court you must have solid proof that the child is neglected. This means the child is not living in a safe place, is not fed, or not appropriately clothed and you have proof the custodial parent is spending the support in an unreasonable fashion.
What You Can Do
If you have concerns about how child support will be spent, you can have more control over the situation if you enter a written agreement with the custodial parent. For example, you can agree to make direct payments for certain expenses to reduce the amount of "cash" given to the custodial parent.
Joleena Louis is an NYC divorce attorney that helps business owners protect their children, assets, and business in a divorce.