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What To Do In MIssouri If You Suspect Your "Ex"
Isn't Spending Your Child Support Payments On The Kids

Cynthia M. Fox

A woman e-mailed me concerned that her ex-husband was spending the money she pays in child support for his personal goodies and not on their two kids, which her former husband has sole custody of. She wondered if there is anything she could do to force her husband to spend the money on the children.

She wrote as follows: "Everything I am hearing from my kids proves to me that he is not supporting my kids with the money I pay him each month. He has remodelled the kitchen and other parts of the house, bought 2 vehicles...meanwhile the car that my son is driving needs work and my ex refuses to have it repaired or repair it himself. My son has to pay his own insurance and clothing and other things that I am paying child support for."

"What does the parent with custody have to provide for child support? I know that I have to keep records that I paid him child support, but what does he have to prove? He doesn't even help my daughter get back and forth to college."

As it turns out, Missouri has a law that exactly addresses this woman's concern, Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 452, Section 452.342. It's short, easy to understand and to the point. It says that the person paying child support can go back to the court that issued their original support order and, "upon good cause shown", ask the court to order the custodial parent receiving the support to furnish the payer with a regular summary of expenses paid by the custodial parent on behalf of the child.

Sounds pretty straight-forward, doesn't it? And it is if this woman and any other person similarly situated pays heed to the words: "upon good cause shown". Historically judges are reluctant to force a custodial parent to provide receipts or other proof of how they manage their personal finances absent a complaint or other indication that the children are not being cared for.

If you want a judge to take this complaint seriously, you have to point to something more germane than the fact that the "ex" is a bit of a car collector. As the writer admits elsewhere in her e-mail, her former mate "has a well-paying job with full benefits" so no judge is going to be overly concerned about how this man spends his discretionary income, unless you can also show that the children are deprived.

The petition should point to instances where her kids' basic needs were not being met, such as this woman's allegations that her son has to pay for his own clothing and that the dad won't provide the daughter with transportation to school. If the judge comes to believe that the children are going without, while dad lives high on the hog, the judge has the authority to force the custodial parent to come back to court with a detailed and documented accounting what that parent spends and on whom. Plus, he can require that parent to provide those reports on a regular basis to the paying parent, such as every 3 months.

The key here for my e-mailer is to not come off to the judge as simply an embittered "ex" angry about having to pay support while also envious of the former mate's new life. Presenting a reasoned, well-documented motion with credible allegations of her kids needs not being met will likely get this woman the day in court she seeks.

For over 25 years Cynthia M. Fox has focused her practice in family law, with a particular emphasis on matters relating to the dissolution of marriage: divorce representation and mediation, child custody and child support. She is a native St. Louis and a graduate of the Washington University School of Law, Class of '73.

Cynthia M. Fox can be contacted by phone at (314)727-4880 or
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