Parents want to know that their children are being properly cared for. After a divorce in which one parent gains custody while the other is tasked with paying child support, it’s logical that the noncustodial parent would like to know how the funds are spent. Unfortunately, in Texas, the parent who pays child support isn’t entitled to any detailed accounting of how that money is spent.
The parent receiving the child support determines how the money is spent, with the important caveat that the funds are meant to serve the child’s best interests. If you suspect your ex is using the money in ways that don’t benefit the child and, in fact, may be harming them, your only options are to contact the Texas Child Support Division or bring the matter back to court. Read on for more information about what you can do and what the grounds are for going to court again.
What Can My Ex Use Child Support Money For?
Texas law is not terribly specific about what child support funds should be used for. It does indicate that child support money should be used for a child’s basic needs:
- Education (public)
- Health and dental care
Suppose these are all being fulfilled so that the child doesn’t show signs of being malnourished, underclothed, homeless, or not receiving education and healthcare. Then the parent receiving the funds is considered to be fulfilling their duty.
It should be noted that the custodial parent can use child custody funds to pay toward rent, mortgage, or utility bills, as these contribute to the child having a safe, functional form of shelter. The payments can also be used for things like entertainment or travel that involve the child or funds for extras like extracurricular activities. These are not usually grounds for approaching the court with a complaint.
What Can’t Child Support Funds Be Used For in Texas?
Because the laws aren’t strictly defined, this can be a bit vague. But in general, if your ex is using the payments for their own benefit, not the child’s, then you may have cause for concern. For example, if the ex uses the money to buy themselves new clothing or vacations that don’t include the child, that could be a red flag–especially if the child is showing signs of neglect (see below for more details).
The essence of Texas child support law is that child support payments must be used in some way to meet the child’s basic physical, mental, and emotional needs. If the funds are used for things that don’t directly (clothes, food) or indirectly (electricity, rent) benefit the child, it may be time to pursue legal redress.
How Can I Get the Amount of Child Support I Pay Reduced?
There are two ways the amount of child support can be changed, and not always in terms of reduction. The qualifications to do so include one or the other of the following (but is not guaranteed and still needs to go through a legal process):
The child support decree has been in effect for a minimum of three years, and the amount of child support paid each month varies at least 20% or $100 from the amount specified in the child support guidelines in Texas.
There has been what’s called a “material and substantial change in circumstances” since the court order specifying the child support was finalized. The situations considered under material and substantial changes in circumstances include:
- Change in custody arrangement (for example, the noncustodial parent receives custody, or the noncustodial parent becomes legally responsible for other children)
- Change in employment, including layoffs, demotions, reduction in pay, loss of work due to illness or other conditions, or change in employer
- Change or lapse in the child’s health insurance benefits
- Change in the cost of living expenses (which will require justification–just because someone bought a more expensive home does not necessarily justify a reduction in child support payments)
- Military members facing deployment
What Should I Do if I’m Concerned My Ex Isn’t Using Child Support Funds Properly?
Call us as soon as possible at 817-813-8513 for a free case evaluation. Divorce is stressful enough, but worries about the health and well-being of your child can add significantly to that stress. We can walk you through what you would need to know and do to ensure your child receives the benefit of the child support payments.
To pursue the matter legally, we’ll need to work either with the courts that finalized the divorce and child support in the first place, or the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), especially if the funds are being misused in a way that directly causes the child harm through neglect. In cases like that, you’ll need proof that the child is suffering. Some of the signs of neglect include:
- Weight loss or increase in poor health. If the child isn’t being fed properly or being treated by a doctor when needed, this could be a sign of neglect.
- Frequent unexplained school absences.
- Clothing in disrepair and/or frequently unclean or too small for a growing child.
- Living in unsafe conditions, such as a home with no smoke detectors.
The key to proving neglect is evidence. Doctor’s records are vital, as is talking with teachers or daycare providers. Any photographic or video evidence of the child’s neglect is important too. We can go over the process for collecting evidence legally at your free case evaluation.