It’s not easy to subsist on a single salary these days — and that is especially true when you have child support payments to make. When the Christmas holidays come around, many parents feel the financial pinch.
You cannot, however, decide that your Christmas gifts to your children count as child support — nor does your child support payment cover gifts. Whatever you decide to do for your children at this time of the year has to come out of other funds.
What does child support cover?
Child support represents a parent’s financial obligation to support their child’s basic needs. Those needs include things like food, shelter, clothing, medical care and prescriptions — and it can often include educational expenses, money for extracurricular activities and entertainment.
When child support is calculated, each parent’s income and minimal needs are considered, along with exactly how much parenting time they have with their children. Unless all things are very equal, one parent usually ends up paying support to the other for their children’s care.
The paying parent cannot dictate to the receiving parent exactly how every dollar of that support is spent, so you cannot tell your ex to use the money you pay to buy gifts. You also cannot decide to withhold support so that you can buy your children presents without being in violation of a court order — and that can expose you to penalties, fines and more.
What if you can’t afford your support?
If you can’t afford support and gifts for your children, talk to your ex about a plan. Stress the idea that you want to do more but you simply don’t have the funds. See if they can work with you to look for an alternative way to show your feelings toward the kids at this time of year.
If your support payments have simply grown overwhelming because you’ve had a change in circumstances, like a job loss or protracted illness, you can ask the court to modify your payments. Talk to an attorney about your options.