Many times my clients will come to me and express their frustrations with the child support system here in Florida. Surprisingly, however, a top complaint that I will get from a parent paying child support is not the amount they must pay, or even that they have to pay at all, but rather their frustration, and sometimes anger, revolves around the ways in which their child support monies are being spent by the other parent. Unfortunately, I have to inform these parents that Florida, along with most other States, does not have laws or mechanisms to enforce how child support monies are being spent. But, is there a trend starting that will bring some accountability and more transparency to what a parent receiving child support can spend that money on?
The State of Delaware recently initiated a new system where the State disperses child support funds through a child support card, which is being compared to a Food Stamp or EBT card. The underlying goal behind Delaware’s new system is to prevent parents from misusing funds that are intended to help with costs associated with raising children, such as food, clothing, and educational-related expenses. This new card restricts the parent from purchasing non-essential products that are unrelated to the raising of a child, such as alcohol, cigarettes, or even car payments.
Our leaders in Washington are keeping a close eye on how Delaware’s program works out. There have been recent rumblings that Congress could extended a similar program nationwide making it the universal way to control parental spending of child support payments. On the other side of the coin, however, sometimes more government intervention, especially on a nationwide scale, may not necessarily be the answer to this issue. Others would support leaving such abuses of child support payments to the individual States to resolve on their own, which so far, very few states have shown interest.
Florida is included in those states that have done nothing to date on this issue. Florida law does not provide language for placing restrictions on how to spend child support monies. The philosophy behind this lack of oversight is that child support payments should go into an overall pot of available resources for the receiving parent. From this pot of resources, the child support payment may be used for direct expenditures, such as clothing, food, and daycare, or it may be used indirectly for the benefit of the child, for example, covering a portion of the rent or mortgage where the child lives.
This lack of oversight means, of course, that there is presently no accountability in Florida on how child support can be used. If, however, the parent receiving child support payments is not taking care of the child, then it may be possible for the paying parent to motion the court for a modification of timesharing or parental responsibilities, depending on the specific issues at play. However, Florida remains, for the most part, devoid of any court procedure that would allow a party to question how child support money is being spent. If there were such an oversight mechanism in place, then there might be much less abuse related to the spending of child support money. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, that is not the case in Florida, as it is in most States, so a parent receiving child support is free to spend that money in any way that parent sees fit.
If you have questions about your child support or your domestic relations case it’s important to speak with an experienced family law attorney to discuss your specific case and circumstances. Attorney Russell J. Frank is a partner at CPLS, P.A. and focuses his practice areas on family and marital law. Contact Attorney Frank today at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss any family or marital legal issues you may be experiencing.