Does a parent receiving child support have to account for how the money is spent?

I'm frequently asked by parents who pay child support if they can demand an accounting from their ex of how exactly the child support money is being spent, as they don't believe it's going to the children (but rather a car, house, etc). This idea is the basis of the song "Gold Digger". 

I'm not a psychologist, so I won't offer a guess as to why this accounting is wanted, but suffice it to say that the children are not usually being neglected by the custodial parent. 

The short answer is no - a parent cannot demand an accounting of how child support is spent. The longer answer follows.  

As a legal matter, there's no basis for this to be provided. You can ask for it, and they may comply, but they probably won't and there's no reason they should. There's no legal obligation for this to be provided.

As a practical matter, this will never change. If this were allowed, there would be a truly massive strain on our already over-burdened courts, of people fighting about providing an accounting, the specifics of the spending, etc. As a separate practical matter - if a parent has proof the money isn't being spent on the child, so what? That's not a requirement of the law. Again, to be completely clear - there is no legal requirement that child support be spent by the receiving parent to support the child. Any such requirement would directly contradict our concept of what child support is and what it's supposed to do. 

Child support exists to allow the custodial parent to care for the child, yes. And while this includes things like buying clothes and groceries, it also covers things like paying a mortgage or rent on a larger house than a single person would need; paying the utilities on that house to make it habitable for the child; having transportation to transport and care for the child; and any other number of things.

The costs of raising a child are incredibly nebulous, and expenses will be at least somewhat ambiguous more often than not. Child support is designed to defray these costs, but there's not a list of acceptable and unacceptable uses. It is presumed that the custodial parent will defray their costs with the child support, and will care for the children.

If the children are not being cared for, that is an entirely separate issue that the court can look to as a basis for changing custody (and as a result, which party receives child support). If that's the case, feel free to call The Lilly Law Firm today at (678) 807-9150. Otherwise, leave your ex alone.