Nothing is more frustrating to a sincere Christian than to ask the question, “Should I pay tithing on child support money I receive as a parent?” and to receive this kind of response: “It’s between you and the Lord.”
While “it’s between you and God,” is important to your analysis of the question, and while you need to ask God to guide you in your analysis and your ultimate decision, “it’s between you and the Lord” it doesn’t really answer your question. It gives you too little guidance.
What you want to know is whether you should pay tithing on the child support you receive or not pay tithing on it and why. I can and will answer these questions for you substantively.
First, while you will find faithful, devoted, rational Christians who will answer your question with a “yes” and other equally faithful, devoted, rational Christians who will answer your question with a “no,” unless the church you attend has a specific policy on what is and is not tithed* there is no definitive answer to this question (don’t be upset, I will give you as definitive an answer as I can in the next paragraph).
The answer is: no. Here is why:
- If you administer (spend) child support for the sole and exclusive benefit of the child(ren), then
- child support is not yours and thus not “your increase” and thus not money on which you pay tithing (Deuteronomy 14:22; see also Leviticus 27:30-33);
- and if the person who earned the funds out of which child support is paid has already paid tithing on it, then there is no purpose in “tithing” it again just because it has changed hands by being entrusted to you to administer for the benefit of the minor children.
- If the payor did not pay tithing on the child support funds entrusted to you, you are still not obligated to pay tithing on the funds, as they are not your income/increase.
“But,” you may ask, “if I spend some of the child support funds on myself (and you can legally do that if, for example, you use child support to pay your rent, your heat, electric, and/or water bill or similar utilities), then is that ‘increase’ to me, such that I should pay tithing on that portion/fraction that benefits me?” I don’t think so. To explain further by way of a real-life analogy:
- I once had a job as a caretaker for mentally disabled adults during the day. Among the services I provided for these adults was taking them to the occasional movie.
- My employer provided me with money to purchase movie tickets for these adults, as well as to purchase a movie ticket for me.
- Obviously, they money my employer entrusted to me to buy a movie ticket was not for my own enjoyment. I had no choice as to whether I would purchase the ticket for myself or spend the money as I chose.
- Whether I wanted to watch the movie (or liked the movie) was irrelevant because the purpose of providing me with money to purchase a movie ticket for me was enable me to accompany the disabled adults I cared for into the movie theater to supervise and attend to them during the movie.
- The money my employer gave me to purchase a movie ticket for myself was not income/increase to me in any way. I clearly had no moral obligation to pay tithing on that money.
If you are obligated to provide housing, heat, and water to your children under the same roof as where you reside, then you cannot do that without providing housing, heat, and water for yourself at the same time. As long as you utilize those child support funds responsibly for the benefit of your children, then those funds are not income/increase to you. You have no moral obligation to pay tithing on those funds.
*The original version of this question specifically asked whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints requires a child support recipient to pay tithing on child support, and the answer to that question is: the church has no specific policy on the subject.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277