Can spouses be forced to show how child support is spent?

The rapper Clifford Harris – who performs under the stage name “T.I.” – had two sons with his girlfriend Lashon Dixon before the couple split up. Afterward, T.I. was ordered to pay $2,000 per month in child support, plus private school tuition, medical expenses and other costs.

Dixon went back to court seeking an increase to about $3,000 a month. T.I. objected, and argued that Dixon was misusing the payments by living off the money herself instead of actively seeking employment. He demanded an accounting of how exactly the money would be spent if she received an increase.

Disputes about how child support is being spent are fairly common. But whether and when a parent can be forced to explain how the money is actually being used depends a great deal on the circumstances, and varies from state to state.

For example, child support orders in Washington state and Oklahoma specifically warn recipients that they may have to account for their expenses. In Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana and Missouri, parents can be forced to show what expenses they’ve paid on their child’s behalf if the other parent can demonstrate that it’s legitimately necessary to do so. And in Florida and Oregon, judges can generally require such a showing at any time if they choose.

Of course, nobody can be expected to account to the penny for how much of a grocery bill was used for a child’s meals. On the other hand, child support is meant to be used to support children, and it’s clearly wrong to grossly misuse these funds for other purposes.

In general, a child support order can be adjusted if a parent can show that the other parent’s circumstances have changed. If a parent can prove that the other parent isn’t using the child support payments for the purpose for which they were intended, that might be evidence that the parent’s circumstances have changed, and he or she doesn’t need such large payments.

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