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When parents split up, child support often becomes a hard-fought issue. The paying parent may feel financially drained, while the receiving parent may feel like they don't get enough.

The tensions that exist between parents over child support can be aggravated because of misunderstandings about how that support can be used. Whether you're paying or receiving child support, here's what you need to know.

Child support can be used to cover:

  • The basics necessities: This means food, shelter and clothing. Child support may, in fact, go toward rent payments or a mortgage, utility bills and groceries. Even though those things benefit the entire household, they're necessary for the child's safety and comfort.
  • Childcare: Babysitters, nannies and daycare are all fair uses of child support. Even if you think that the care is unnecessary, the court may disagree. For example, if your child enjoyed the services of a nanny prior to your divorce, that's a reasonable expense afterward, as well.
  • Educational costs: Books, uniforms, computer equipment and more may need to come out of support payments. Your child may also need special education services because of a learning disability or an exceptional talent.
  • Extracurricular costs and entertainment: This can include things like internet service, cable, games, toys, summer camps and other things that directly benefit the child.
  • Medical expenses: This may include things like dental and medical co-pays, braces, medication, surgery and glasses.

Most of the time, child support orders are as fair as the court can make them. If your financial situation has changed, however, and you no longer think the support payments you make or receive are fair, it may be time to seek a modification.

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