Child support -- does it all go for the kids?

My sister’s ex-husband pays her $1800 per month in child support, $900 for each kid. Now it seems to me that most of this is not going for the kids’ benefit, since they live virtually rent-free in my mom’s house, my mom makes them breakfast and lunch and my sister just buys the food for dinner 5 nights a week. I think most of the child support money is going to pay off my sister’s credit card debt.

Lately her 16-year-old son is starting to press her about where “his” $900 is going each month. I think possibly his dad is behind this. Perhaps he thinks that if he can prove that most of the money is not going for the kids’ needs, he could get his payments reduced?

I want to know if this is how it works or not.

It is supposed to be for the children (to include a roof over their head, which also benefits the mother). Yet, unless he has a really good lawyer and she a really poor one, he can’t control how the money is spent.

The point is that the children shouldn’t have a drop in living standard after the divorce - however, the $$ doesn’t go to minor children - it goes to their legal guardian - in this case the mother to use as she sees fit and should cover living expenses (rent), food, medical, clothing, shampoo, etc - you know the kind of stuff that 16 year-olds don’t even think about actually costing money? :wink:

Anyhow - I think unless mom is spending the $$ on her crack habit there isn’t much chance in getting the payments reduced (or whatever).

Google turned up a nice little tutorial showing how New York State child support is calculated.
Summary based on the tutorial: In NYS, child support is a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s (father’s, usually) post-tax income.
You can petition the state to have the child support raised above the formula based on extraordinary expenses such as medical challenges the child is undergoing. You cannot petition the state to have the child support lowered below the formula for any reason. You may be able to legally delay payments under highly extraordinary circumstances if your income is extremely low, but you’ll still wind up having to pay the calculated amount eventually.

If your friend is in New York State, looks like he’s stuck, unless there was a change in his rate of pay.

If you feel that your child support obligations may be unlawful or outside of guidelines, I’d suggest you call a lawyer in your area and see if they think they can do anything.

DISCLAIMER: If you are not in Ankh-Morpork, I am not your attorney and you are not my client. I am not licensed to practice law in any US location.

I should have put this in my last post, as it has charts for many state’s child support laws:

Last time I contacted a lawyer was to have my child support payment increased. When I first called he assumed that I wanted them lowed since that is why he is normally contacted with regard to child support.

He stated to me (before I could clarify) that the mother has a set amount that she is to receive based on my yearly income. Child support payments cannot legal go below this amount. This is non-negotiable. The mother can spend the money however she sees fit.

This is in Texas.

Damn those lawyer can talk fast. Sounded like he was either reading a script or had it memorize verbatim

I don’t think that any of the states want to get into micro-managing exactly how the parents spend the money. It would be a documentation nightmare to prove that each dollar was somehow spent on the child, so the states just trust that most of the time the money is spent wisely. But there’s nothing to stop someone from taking the child-support money and putting it into their own retirement fund (or beer fund).

Well based on those standards, my ex-brother-in-law is paying more than twice the minimum standard. He makes $3300 per month ($2805 after taxes) and the kids have no special circumstances. So he should be paying about $700 per month total.

And I believe it’s possible to sue an ex-spouse for recovery of money you’ve already paid, if you can show clearly that they weren’t using it to support the child.

But on the whole, it seems that courts are reluctant to reduce the amount of money paid up-front. Your sister’s ex might have better luck (esp. with some pressure from the kids) getting her to agree to his putting some of the monthly $900 directly into a savings account or trust fund specifically for the child’s future use. If she really is selfish enough to spend most of her child support money on her own personal expenses, though, there probably is no official recourse for anyone involved short of suing her, and I wouldn’t want to go there.

In some states, a certain sum (e.g., 10%) is allocated for household expenses, and an interested party (e.g., the child support-paying father) can request an accounting or audit of where the money has been spent. It’s at least worth asking about.

Ok, even if the support payment is going to pay for her credit card debt… what is on the credit cards? clothes, food, toiletries etc for the children? Wild trips for her? Paying for keeping a roof over their heads before she moved in with her mother? While putting living expenses on a credit card may not be the brightest idea in the world, it can still be shown to be used fro the children’s support.

How do you figure? 25% of $3,300 is $825. He should be paying close to $825/month for both children. Unless there was some alimony involved or an order to help her pay off debts. ??

It’s 25% after taxes, which makes it .25($2805) = $701.25, and that’s the total amount, not the amount per kid.

Maybe your sister is socking it all away so the kids and their kids can live with her virtually rent-free in the future.

Which taxes? The only allowable tax deduction appears to be FICA which is Social Security. That’s it, not federal and state taxes.

Maybe in YOUR state. Not in New York.

And, yes, FICA is the only tax which is deducted before calculation. Other than FICA, the only deduction is for **pre-existing child support orders which are actually being PAID. ** (And, no, you can’t go out and make a hugely overblown voluntary agreement with your current girlfriend to undercut the amount your ex girlfriend will be awarded if for some reason she hasn’t filed her original support petition yet. And you can’t use subsequent orders for Family 2, 3, and 4 to reduce the amount for Family 1. It’s been tried. Over and over and over again.)

Regarding the general concept of giving the non-custodial parent veto power over how the support money is paid: Nope. For better or worse, the only way to have control over how your money is spent is either to be the custodial parent or to not break up with the children’s mother or father in the first place. That’s just a plain ol’ fact of life, unless you have some kind of extraordinary written agreement that says otherwise. That’s the good news and the bad news, depending on whether you’re the non-custodial parent whose ex is a crackhead (my sister in law is, so believe me, I know) or the custodial parent whose ex is a vindictive, controlling jackass (I see them in court every day).

BTW – absent such an agreement, you are not allowed to control the flow of money by giving it directly to the child or by using it to buy the kid things and expecting to be able to deduct their cost from the support obligation. Generally speaking, that will not work; also, anyone who hands that kind of cash to a kid is doing more harm than good.

Off to work in Family Court.

Additionally, might be worth it to review the decree ordering payments - it might well be that the total he’s paying is for child support AND either property settlement or alimony in some form. Courts commonly lump all payments from one former-spouse to the other former-spouse together into one payment order. More efficient. It’s presumed that the parties know how much is being paid and for what purpose without requiring the reminder of seperate checks.

It is unlikely (to put it mildly) that your former brother-in-law will be able to get a reduction in his payments based on how he thinks your sister might be spending the money. If he can demonstrate with clear and convincing evidence that she’s blowing it on heroin or kiddie porn then possibly - but generally speaking, it’s not happening.

One thing to keep in mind is that the charts available online for calculating child support payments are merely guidelines. The court is not bound to use them as anything else (other than as a generally-established minimum payment indicator). The court will assign an amount of child support based on the particular facts of any given case. It could easily be considerably higher than the amount listed on those charts - that would be well within a judge’s discretion. If the amount is substantially higher and your former brother-in-law is being driven into bankruptcy by the payments and only the payments then, possibly, you might get a ruling by a different judge that the first judge was unreasonable. I’m not going to recommend holding your breath though.

It might be advantageous to point out to your nephew that the amount paid by his father for his support is under no circumstances his own personal money. There is a reason courts do not order those payments paid directly to the children. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to discover that your former brother-in-law had nothing to do with his recent questions. He might be thinking that money is his and have grand plans for what he’d be spending “his” money on if only his mom weren’t selfishly keeping it all from him.

Keep in mind, I’m not your lawyer. My comments are for academic purposes only and may not be reproduced without the express written authority of Major League Baseball.