Parents are not required to track how they spend child support dollars
I am often asked if a parent who is paying child support is entitled to an accounting or some documentation to evidence that the parent receiving the child support is using it for the benefit of the parties’ child or children in common.
The short answer is no. In fact it has been my experience that if a person asks for such evidence the judge actually can become visibly irritated by the suggestion that the money is not used for the benefit of the children.
That is not to suggest that the judge or judges have an unfair predisposition in favor of people receiving child support.
The Maryland statutes simply preclude examination of the issue because the support is “presumed” to be used for the child(ren’s) benefit.
In cases where the child support has been previously established by court order and/or agreement.
How this works is that child support is generally both a floor and a ceiling. While child support payors often demand an accounting, the payee is not required to produce such an itemization of expenses for the child(ren). That is spelled out in Section 12-204(I)(2):
(l) Cases other than shared physical custody cases. —
(2) The obligee shall be presumed to spend that parent’s total child support obligation directly on the child or children.
In my experience, the money enures to the benefit of the children in all but a small portion of the cases I have been involved in. I think in the cases I have worked on, no more than 2.5% of the time has there been evidence that a significant amount of the household money was being diverted to expenses that were extravagant, illegal or purely for the benefit of an adult or adults. I say this with all sincerity having represented both the parents paying and the parents being paid child support.
This presumption that the child support is being used for the benefit of the children does not mean you can’t ask for bank information and other financial information in the discovery process. It just means that you shouldn’t be “grandstanding” in court because your ex bought a new car etc. On the other hand if the information leads to something worth banging on the table about, so be it.
In cases where the child support has yet to be established:
The Maryland Child Support Guidelines carry a presumption of being correct but the court can deviate from those guidelines if you put on a compelling case. If you are the payor parent and you are looking for a deviation downward from the guidelines a new car payment is probably not going to do it.
On the other hand, if the parents live across the country from one another, or even across the state, there may be an offset for transportation because access with both parents is also presumed to be in the children’s best interest. Bring Map Quest or Expedia statements to show your expenses.
Tim Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place
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