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How much of your child support is actually spent on your child?

(Op-ed by M.E. Mullins)

We all know what child support is, or at least have an understanding of how is it supposed to work. But how much of that money legally has to be spent on the child? It might surprise many people to learn that there are absolutely no rules or controls on how child support funds are spent. Technically, none of it is mandated to go toward the child’s benefit, and the receiving parent can spend it any way they want, and many do just that.

So let’s back up a minute and review how child support is calculated and levied in Iowa.

If child support is to be awarded, the parent with the greater income pays the other parent child support monies monthly, usually through the Clerk of Court. In Iowa, the amount one parent pays the other is called an “offset”. This is a calculated number which offsets one parent’s higher income vs. the other’s income amount. There is, by the way, no distinction for the sex of the parent in this calculation. If the female ex-spouse were to make more income, she would pay the male the offset as calculated by the state formula. In joint custody situations, each parent owes each other the basic amount of child support, and the offset is designed to make up the difference.

So who controls how child support monies are spent? The answer is nobody. The recipient parent gets a blank check every month, and is free to spend it however they want. Nothing says you can’t spend this on a big screen TV, tanning and nail appointments, or taking a fun trip out of town. No agency or court controls this, but maybe it’s time there were some rules. It’s not fair for parents to spend these funds however they want while the child does without or with less. If child support payments are SO important that the parent that fails to pay them can be put in jail for non-payment, why is the receiving parent allowed to spend them however they want? That doesn’t seem fair at all. And if you watch the county jail roster as so many do, you know that there is almost always at least one person in jail for non-payment of child support. How about we put the other parent in custody for pissing away the money?

So why not have the receiving parent get EBT style debit cards which have the same rules as food stamps? Then there would be some control over how the money was spent. This could be extended to include school supplies and clothing, but purchases of alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, etc. would be forbidden. Maybe it’s time that the parent receiving the child support produces a ledger showing where the funds were spent on the child, or have to return the funds to the parent that paid them. If you think this is a good idea, please call or email your congressman. It’s time for more accountability of child support dollars in Iowa!

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