Parents with partial custody often approach me with questions about how to handle providing money to the other parent when there is a child support obligation. Often, not only does the obligor owe money via the court order, he or she gets pressure from the parent with primary custody to provide extra money or items to provide for the child. Although any well meaning parent would want to provide as much as possible for his or her child, sometimes financial constraints dictate that he or she can only contribute so much. Therefore, how should the parent go about providing for his or her child in that situation?
My advice for a parent with a court ordered support obligation is to make sure the court ordered portion is taken care of before a parent provides any other supplemental support to the other parent. The money paid into the support system is meant to be used for all of the items that the primary custodian is likely requesting the obligor to help with. Additionally, if an obligor fails to provide money or items to the primary custodian, there is little consequence other than a possible argument. However, if an obligor neglects to pay the court ordered support amount and instead pays directly to the custodial parent, there is no record that the money was paid and the court can hold the obligor in contempt of court and sentence him or her to serve as much as 6 months in jail until the support obligation is caught up.
Most parents want to provide as much as possible to their children and purchasing them tangible objects may feel more gratifying than paying a set sum of money per month to the state for distribution. However, the ramifications of neglecting the support order for the satisfaction of providing material things can be significant. Take care to fulfill your court ordered obligation before going above and beyond.
Contact my Pittsburgh law office, Gusty A.E. Sunseri & Associates, with any child support related questions.