Child Support: Really that bad?

I was reading this thread earlier about child support issues:

Most people seem to be of the opinion that money paid for child support can be used by the parent in pretty much any way he/she sees fit without any oversight. This is astounding to me. We all know that divorces can get ugly fast and many people are not beyond using the legal system to hurt the other person.

So my question is, is it really that bad? Can a man divorce his wife and then be ordered to pay child support which the wife can use to, say, buy beer and other things for herself? If it really is that way, then why? Why do we as a society put up with that? I would have a hard time believing that all women who receive child support don’t use at least some of the money for personal things that in no way benefit the child. Makes me feel sick to think of all the abuse going on in a system that works that way.

Child neglect laws still apply. If the mother didn’t take care of the child and just spent all money on beer the father could sue for custody.

If the father can prove that the mother wasn’t spending child support on the child, he could bring action against the mother or request custory of the child.

Notice the word prove.

Having just gone through this I can tell you that the courts aren’t really concerned about how the money is spent by the mother. In California at least they use a program called the DisoMaster to determine, based on both parents incomes, how much should be paid to whom. Generally there is an inequity in income between the two since most men make more money than most women… but there are of course exceptions.

Usually the father ends up writing a check and sending it to the wife every month until the child turns 18… end of story. If the wife chooses to spend most of that money on new shoes for herself so be it. She is responsible for taking care of the children so she is responsible if the children are neglected. If that happens the court can step in and change the custody arrangement.

BTW, in California if the financial circumstances of either parent changes they can petition the court for a review and recalculation of the child support. For example, if the father gets a new job that only pays half as much as the old one he can file for a reduction based on the new DisoMaster results.

Also, If the wife finds a millionaire boyfriend… or husband… it doesn’t change a thing. It’s the father’s and mother’s income that matters… not any new spouses.

Sure, but would spending $30 on a case of beer from a $1800 support check be considered neglect? The amount of money that the legal system is taking from (mostly) men seems awfully high to me. Anything not spent on the child, in my opinion, should go into some kind of trust fund for the kids, not to mom.

And that’s the heart of the problem. It would be almost impossible for a dad to prove mom was spending money on the wrong things because, as far as I can see, there is no accountability required from mom. Insane.

The sort of thing you are suggesting sounds like an accounting and bureaucratic nightmare. The mother would be expected to account for every dollar, and some bureaucracy would need to review this.

So what are you suggesting? And when you say woman, I’m just going to assume you mean custodial parent, since it most certainly is not always the man that pays child support.

If a custodial parent is neglecting their children, then the non-custodial parent (assuming they themselves can take care of the children) should sue for custody.

I don’t see how this would strictly be an issue regarding child support. I work full time. Does that mean I can spend that money on beer and things for myself and not for the benefit of my child? Well, sure, I can, but I wouldn’t be much of a parent (or a responsible person) now would I? I also receive child support. Does that mean I am not allowed to buy beer, because there’s no real way to distinguish what money is going where?
And what do you consider beneficial to the children? Rent and mortgage, right? Or at least some portion of it. Electric bill? Water/Garbage bill? Grocery bill? Car payment? Gasoline? Insurance? Phone bill? Cable bill? Medical bills/co-pays? What about home repairs? Car repairs/maintenence? A new TV? Carpet cleaning service? Do kids benefit from that, or as the non-custodial parent do you suddenly only become responsible for the shoes on their feet and a box of cereal?

Kids cost money. Life costs money. Divorce doesn’t change the fact that both parents are responsible for supporting their children, and themselves, for that matter.

I’ve been on the paying side of child support and I know how frustrating the whole thing can be.

However, to be fair, it would be very difficult to account for where the money actually goes. Typically the non-custodial parent (father) sends a certain amont of money every month to the custodial parent (mother). That money most likely will go into a checking account along with any other income the mother may be getting. If the mom spends $100 on beer, how do you know if it was child support money or personal income?

The non-custodial parent can and often does get restraining orders placed on them for checking up on thier former spouses (it’s called harrassment). Makes proving that they are unfit even that much harder.

I’m an obligor (the fancy name for someone who pays child support) too. And yes, it is frustrating. Little to be done really. Some examples:

  1. My ex got braces, owed $2500, and paid them off, all while she was essentially unemployed. She was living in subsidized housing, getting food stamps, and declared bankruptcy, yet she was able to raise $2500 for her braces. But she couldn’t afford a bike for our daughter.
  2. She met her second husband (she’s divorcing him and engaged to number 3 now) through a dating service that cost her $5000 while she was working as a temp, and still living in subsidized housing and getting food stamps.
  3. She has worked part-time, temp, seasonal, or not at all with the exception of one year since we got divorced (in 1997). Most recently she got laid off, spent a year and a half looking for a new job, and then chose a part-time job with no benefits over a full-time job. I took a job that paid less than the one I had when we were first divorced, and still have not heard the end of it. Her lawyer actually asked me, while I was under oath at a hearing, if I thought my decision to take a lower paying job was fair to my child.
  4. I briefly represented a famous musician–you would recognize his name–who was paying substantially less support than I am because he got divorced in Nevada, where there is a $500 cap on child support.

Yeah, it sucks. But what would you do to fix it?

As was told plainly to my ex (Canadian law): “You pay her. She can do whatever she wants with the money. If you think she isn’t caring for him properly, sue for custody. Other than that, shut up.”

I don’t think you’ve really thought about this. What you’re suggesting is completely impossible.

Suppose John pays Mary $700 a month in child support for one child. Mary already has a net income of $1800 per month. So every month she deposits $700 and has, in effect, $2500 in net income.

Tell me; how are you, or how is the government, going to determine if the $700 was spend on child care? How do you determine that a dollar taken out of Mary’s back account for whatever purpose came out of the $700 or the $1800?

For that matter, how do you determine how much it cost Mary to support the child? Some expenses are easy, like the kid’s clothes. But how do you figure the marginal cost of having a home with an extra bedroom? Gasoline expenses? Having a larger car or minivan? The opportunity cost of child rearing as opposed to working more? Utilities? Calculating food expenses is much more complex than it might seem at first glance - how do you divvy up who ate the ketchup?

Sure, you’ll hear bad stories. You don’t have to go far to hear bad stories about shitty fathers, too. Having “oversight” isn’t a solution; in fact, it’s completely insane. To do it effectively the government would probably end up spending more money on the oversight than the child support payments would add up to.

Your claim that there is “no accountability for Mom” is simply not true; she’s required to raise the child in accordance with the legal expectations of a parent. At a minimum she has to feed, clothe and house the child. That’s going to cost SOME money.

I’ve heard child support described as “all the obligations of having a wife and child, and none of the privileges”

Here’s the thing, this amount of care costs $X/mo. X is not particularly high, most families, even poor ones, can manage a non-neglectful level of care. In many states, child support payments are dependant not on X, but on the father’s salary, so the payments can be far in excess of X but the mother is not required to spend anything more than X. I would be pretty pissed if my (fictional) ex took a big chunk of my money and kept my child in used clothes and hambuger helper.

I don’t know that there’s a feasable way to do an accounting, but some level of basic review should be available to prevent the grossest abuses.

I’d love to add to this, but this is GQ.

The biggest problem here is that your hypothetical ex will have to spend her time feeding the kid, watching the kid, taking her for doctor visits, etc. Things you as non-custodial parent are not required to do. Thus, of whatever amount of money you pay per month to your ex, arguably she is entitled to some for herself for acting as nanny to your kid.

Yes in deed! This thread has definite “Pit Potential”.

That’s simply not true, at least not in my experience in researching child support laws. In most states payments are determined by **both **parties incomes, just like a real family. Their incomes are combined to make a family ‘pot’, if you will, and then compared to a chart (there’s a method to how they come up with these figures as well), which suggests what 2 parents would pay to support x amount of children. Then, just like a real family, the party that earns more assumes a bigger share of that responsibility. Some states take other things into account, like % of time spent with each parent, who pays health insurance, etc.

True, psycat90, but that doesn’t change the idea that the support is based on income, and is not directly related to how much it costs to raise a child. If the ensuing custody fight is decided based on whether or not the child is being neglected, it is easy to see how a bad mother could pass that test and still spend most of the support money on herself.