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. Frustrations as this leads them to wonder about child support accountability and how the money should be spent.
Unfortunately, I have to tell these parents that Florida, along with most other states, does not have any laws or mechanisms in which to enforce ways child support monies are being spent. But is there a trend starting that will bring some child support accountability and more transparency to what a parent can spend that money on?
New Tools Emerging to Prevent Misuse of Child Support Funds
The State of Delaware recently initiated a new system in which the state disperses child support funds through a child support card, which is being compared to a food stamp or an EBT card. The underlying goal behind Delaware’s new system is to prevent parents from misusing funds that are really supposed to help with costs associated with raising children, such as food, clothing, and educational-related expenses. These new cards do not allow the parent to purchase 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, as there have been rumblings already that Congress could extend a similar program nationwide, making it the universal way to control how parents spend their child support money. The other side of the coin, however, is that sometimes more government intervention (especially on a nation-wide scale) may not necessarily be the answer to these problems, so 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 an interest in.
States Are Failing to Enforce Child Support Accountability
As we now know, Florida is included in those states that have done nothing to date on child support accountability, as Florida law does not place restrictions on how child support monies are spent. The philosophy behind this lack of intervention is that child support payments should go into an overall pot of available resources for the receiving parent. This may mean that the child support is used for direct expenditures, such as clothing, food, and daycare, or it may mean that it is used indirectly for the benefit of the child and covers a portion of the rent or mortgage where the child lives.
This means, of course, that there is presently no child support accountability in Florida. If, however, the parent receiving child support 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 could 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.
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 [email protected] to discuss any family or marital legal issues you may be experiencing.