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There are a lot of misconceptions about child support -- including how the money can be spent. Sometimes, the paying parent feels entitled to demand proof of how every dollar was used under the mistaken belief that support has to be spent on things that only benefit the child.

Here's what you need to understand about child support in California:

1. Child support can be used to cover a broad array of expenses.

Those expenses may directly or indirectly benefit the child. For example, child support can be used to pay for:

  • The rent or mortgage of the home the child lives in
  • Utility bills
  • Transportation, including gas, car insurance and maintenance
  • Groceries
  • Entertainment expenses

These things are in addition to costs that are more specific to the child, such as medical expenses, child care (including babysitters and summer camps), clothing and school supplies.

2. You are not usually required to prove where every dollar is spent.

Generally speaking, as long as you are providing for your child's needs and there are no serious allegations that you are not, you don't have to account for every dollar you spend. That's because the support is presumably added into your household's income and used for household expenses like utilities.

Child support is calculated according to a formula that takes into account each parents' income and custodial time with the child. It's designed to keep the child's standard of living fairly steady. In practice, that means that child support may enrich the nonpaying parent's standard of living beyond his or her ordinary means. However, that doesn't entitle the nonpaying parent to demand an accounting.

You can protect yourself from allegations of frivolous spending simply be keeping track of your household expenses. If the court inquires about your use of the money, you can then easily show where the bulk of the child support is going. An attorney can give you more specific advice about child support based on your situation.

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