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Child support often misunderstood and misused

When a California family court orders a parent to pay support for his or her children following divorce, the order is not always received with pleasure. Child support payments are often hotly contested, and some studies show that nearly half of those who owe child support default on their payments. However, many parents who are ordered to financially support their children complain that the money they send is not used for the right purpose.

The children of separated parents have the right to a consistent standard of living. Child support payments are meant to improve the chances that the children will not suffer or lack for things they need. Therefore, child support may be used for household expenses that provide the child a healthy and decent lifestyle, such as food, rent or utilities.

More appropriately, the money would pay for the child's school supplies, clothing, medical expenses and other basic needs. It may also cover expenses related to the child's special interests or extra-curricular activities. Child support money should never be spent on personal items or services for the custodial parent, such as clothing, tobacco, alcohol or vacations that do not include the children.

A clear parenting agreement can spell out the responsibilities of each parent, including those expenses that child support will cover. Paying child support does not relieve one California parent from participating fully in the child's life, nor does receiving payments allow a parent to control when the non-custodial parent will or will not spend time with the children even if payments are late. Dealing with issues arising from child support orders are best handled with the assistance of an attorney.

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