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Where is all my child support truly going?

If you are a divorced father paying child support for your kids, chances are good that, at times, you may have questioned whether or not 100 percent of your support money was going toward expenses solely dedicated to your children.

This can become a bone of contention between divorced spouses due to some common misconceptions about child support.

Can my ex pay her bills with the kids' support?

A custodial parent cannot use the children's support money to pay for personal expenses, such as clothing, manicures or a night out on the town, for instance. But your ex is within her rights to use all or part of the child support to cover the rent or mortgage payments, utilities, cable or internet services and many additional expenses.

Here's an example — In Southern California, it's exceedingly difficult to manage without access to a reliable vehicle. So, if necessary, your ex may use the child support you pay to augment her car payment, auto insurance, car maintenance and repairs, licensing and other transportation-related expenses. After all, your children need to be ferried to various appointments, activities and school functions in a vehicle that doesn't pose safety risks to them.

But I get asked to cover extra expenses, too

Rearing children is expensive. If your ex uses the support money to pay for child care and living expenses, and there are additional costs for agreed-upon extracurricular activities like a band instrument or cheerleader uniform, she (or your kids) may ask for additional funds.

If you are not court-ordered to pay more, no one can strong-arm you into opening your wallet for these add-ons. However, keeping in mind that your goal should be the best interests of your child(ren), it may be better to shell out a few extra bucks for the soccer fees or prom gown.

Communication is key here. If your ex or kids are running to you regularly for all of the extras, it's time to discuss the realities of your financial situation with your ex. If the two of you are both going through a bad financial patch or there is a history of overspending, you may have to put on the brakes. No parent wants to see their kids do without, but participation in every club and sport their school offers is not necessary.

Ask your children and your ex to prioritize their preferences, e.g., soccer, but not basketball; ballet, but no gymnastics. Remember, too, that one-time expenses like prom gowns and senior trips can be planned and budgeted for by both parents. It's perfectly fine to ask older kids who have part-time jobs to contribute financially to be able to afford all of their activities or expenses like a car for those 16 and older.

But I'm not an ATM!

If the spending habits of your ex and your kids are truly out of control, it may be necessary to try to mediate a compromise. Child support can be modified if the parents' or children's circumstances change significantly, so if you feel that it is necessary, your Huntington Beach family law attorney can assist you with getting this done.

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