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Can you replace child support with gifts?

If you are ordered to pay a certain amount of child support, can you substitute that amount with an equal value of clothing, school supplies or other gifts? In most cases, the answer is no. A binding child support order is for a payment of money to the other parent, not a barter of goods, and there are good reasons for such a rule.

For example, in some cases, the provision of gifted items doesn't actually support the needs of the child. Numerous parents on the online Circle of Moms forum noted that the other parent was providing gifts such as cellphones or tablets. At the same time, the custodial parent was struggling just to meet basic needs such as food and shelter because they were not receiving appropriate child support. While it's often natural to want to provide children with the things they want, parents should try to work together to first provide all the things that are truly needed.

In some cases, the pendulum falls the other direction. Children might ask one parent for something, such as new clothing or money for a school trip, and be told to ask the other parent. The reason for sending kids to the other parent? Because support was paid, so there's no reason to buy anything else for the child.

It's understandable that there might be emotions regarding child support on both sides of the equation, but those emotions should not interfere with making appropriate decisions about the raising of children. While some couples might choose a legal or informal support arrangement that does include the provision of items, if support payments are ordered by the court, they are legally binding. If you are not receiving ordered child support payments because the other spouse is instead providing gifts to your child, then consider speaking to a family law professional about your options.

Source: Popsugar, "When Ex-Husbands Buy Gifts Instead of Child Support," Mary Beth Sammons, accessed Sep. 16, 2016

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