If you’re a single dad who is paying court-mandated child support, it’s important to understand where and how those funds are supposed to be used. As a reminder, several factors are considered when determining child support—which include parents’ incomes, number of children, and visitation schedules, just to name a few.

In California, child support is the duty of both parents and is typically used for everyday expenses, such as:

  • housing,
  • food,
  • clothing,
  • healthcare,
  • education, and
  • sports and other extracurricular activities.

What if I think my ex is spending my child support payments on herself?

Many mothers spend child support responsibly, ensuring their children’s’ needs are being met. Because custodial parents aren’t required to track and report how they spend child support payments, however, you may want to rest assured knowing your hard-earned dollars are being used to provide for your children’s needs—and not on your former spouse’s personal needs. For instance, you may suspect your ex-wife is improperly spending your child support payments if you find that you’re constantly buying everyday essentials for your children during your time with them, or if your ex is frequently asking you for more money even after you’ve regularly paid child support each month.

You can take several steps to help protect your best interests, though. For example, use checks when making child support payments, as they provide a paper trail and a record of your payments. Be sure to keep copies of every check until your child support is paid in full. While your divorce agreement may state that your child support payments go toward expenses such as food, healthcare, and clothing, be sure to clearly outline and understand any additional expenses that fall outside of these basics.

If you have genuine concerns about how your ex is taking care of your children, however, speak with an father’s rights lawyer who is knowledgeable about California child support.

What about other expenses for my children—such as cars or their college education?

While it’s common for many parents to help their young adult children cover the costs for cars or higher education, parents aren’t responsible for providing any living or college expenses after their children turn 18. Typically, these types of expenses aren’t included in a divorce judgement, leaving these financial issues up to the parents to address on their own.

However, if you agree to cover all or some of your children’s future college education, you’re obligated to those payments–even if they’re 10 years down the road and your financial situation or your ex-wife’s financial situation has changed. That said, it’s best to discuss these expenses as they arise so you and your former spouse can find the right solution given the current circumstances.