A caller to my office went off on a rant the other day. He is paying child support and is doing so happily. He loves his kids and wants to take care of them.
What set him off though is the fact that there are all sorts of laws out there that regulate how much you have to pay, when you have to pay, interest, etc., and if he’s late on his payments he can go lose his driver’s license or go to jail. But nothing regulates what the parent who gets the child support does with the money. In this case, the mother was using it for drugs and a vacation. The kid was going without clothes, food, books for school and other necessities like shampoo and soap.
When he complained to his attorney, the caller was told that nothing can be done. That is partly true and partly false.
It’s pathetic, but Illinois law doesn’t require the recipient to do anything with child support. If you spend it on drugs or rent or a party or tickets to a ball game that is your prerogative. A lot of parents, usually Dads, come to me hoping to get out of child support because they take care of all of the basic needs for their kids. That is admirable, but doesn’t take away the obligation to pay a specific dollar amount too.
What is partly false though is the fact that if the person receiving support is really acting this way and the child is being hurt as a result, you can petition the Judge to change custody (which would make it so you receive support) based on the best interests of the child. If their grades are slipping or they are suffering health wise, you may have a good case.
The last thing the caller said to me was “the system is broken.” I totally agree and wish as attorneys that there was more that we could do about it. The truth is though that any change will have to be made by our legislature. They make the laws and we deal with them. It’s probably a pipe dream to think that anything can happen to better the system because so many other things are broken in Illinois. And it’s a shame too because with technology you could easily document what you are using support for and we can ensure that kids are actually being taken care of. At the end of the day that is the whole point of why we even pay in the first place.
There are probably no perfect solutions, but that doesn’t mean that the process can’t get better. So if you have any specific concerns, your best bet is to try and meet with your state rep or state senator to see if they will propose legislation that will match how life actually works and will look out for kids. Until then, it truly is a free for all and if your only concern is that you don’t like what your ex does with the money then you are going to have a hard time getting results.