What is child support intended to cover?

Child Support Purposes. What are they?

Black’s Law Dictionary defines child support as:

child support (1939) Family law. 1. A parent’s legal obligation to contribute to the economic maintenance and education of a child until the age of majority, the child’s emancipation before reaching majority, or the child’s completion of secondary education. • The obligation is enforceable both civilly and criminally. 2. In a custody or divorce action, the money owed or paid by one parent to the other for the expenses incurred for children of the marriage. • The right to child support is the child’s right and cannot be waived, and any divorce-decree provision waiving child support is void.

 (Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019))

Does this mean that a parent receiving child support can spend some of the child support money on his/her rent or mortgage and the associated utilities? I would say yes. After all, the parent and child(ren) reside in the same place, and the child(ren) need housing too. Does this mean that a parent receiving child support can spend some of the child support money on his/her own food that the parent himself/herself eats? I would say no. A parent is responsible for purchasing his/her own food out of his/her own income, not the money provided for the support of the child. These same principles would apply to all other expenses. Although child support funds are paid to a parent, the funds are for the support of the child and the child alone, not for support of the parent.

In Utah (where I practice divorce and family law), here are some links to key statutes governing the purposes of child support:

Utah Code § 78B-12-105.  Duty of parents.

(1) Every child is presumed to be in need of the support of the child’s mother and father. Every mother and father shall support their children.

Utah Code § 78B-12-218.  Accountability of support provided to benefit child — Accounting.

(1) The court or administrative agency which issues the initial or modified order for child support may, upon the petition of the obligor, order prospectively the obligee to furnish an accounting of amounts provided for the child’s benefit to the obligor, including an accounting or receipts.

(2) The court or administrative agency may prescribe the frequency and the form of the accounting which shall include receipts and an accounting.

(3) The obligor may petition for the accounting only if current on all child support that has been ordered.

Utah Code § 78B-12-102.  Definitions.

As used in this chapter:

(4) “Base child support award” means the award that may be ordered and is calculated using the guidelines before additions for medical expenses and work-related child care costs.


(8) “Child support” means a base child support award, or a monthly financial award for uninsured medical expenses, ordered by a tribunal for the support of a child, including current periodic payments, arrearages that accrue under an order for current periodic payments, and sum certain judgments awarded for arrearages, medical expenses, and child care costs.

Utah Code § 78B-12-108.  Support follows the child.

(1) Obligations ordered for child support and medical expenses are for the use and benefit of the child and shall follow the child.

(2) Except in cases of joint physical custody and split custody as defined in Section 78B-12-102, when physical custody changes from that assumed in the original order, the parent without physical custody of a child shall be required to pay the amount of support determined in accordance with Sections 78B-12-205 and 78B-12-212, without the need to modify the order for:

(a) the parent who has physical custody of the child;

(b) a relative to whom physical custody of the child has been voluntarily given; or

(c) the state when the child is residing outside of the home in the protective custody, temporary custody, or custody or care of the state or a state-licensed facility for at least 30 days.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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