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Can Child Support Go Directly to a Child?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

One of the most popular questions lawyers receive from noncustodial clients is whether child support can go directly to a child.

Sure, your child may be a toddler, but she's brilliant and probably has impeccable (Monopoly) money management skills.

Sarcasm aside, it's a valid question that becomes particularly pressing when a custodial parent becomes unfit (e.g., develops an expensive addiction) or begins to squander support payments.

If you can't make payments directly to your child, you may be able to pay a third party.

Direct Payment to the Child

When a child is a minor, you generally cannot make child support payments to the child directly. Typically, payments must go to the other parent.

But the rules vary depending on your jurisdiction. A number of states allow payments to be made directly to the child under specific circumstances such as the child's age, disability, and level of education.

For example, in Missouri, if the child is at least 18 and enrolled in a vocational school or college, the child or parent obligated to pay support may petition the court to direct the obligated parent to make the payments directly to the child.

Indirect Payment to the Child

Indirect child support, on the other hand, involves payments made to third parties for expenses such as school tuition, camp, lessons, after-school activities, and healthcare costs.

It's a viable way to make sure your child support payments are going towards the care of your child -- but the greater control and sense of involvement also comes with added responsibility.

For example, if you pay the third parties directly, you may be responsible for new fee increases. By contrast, if you're only obligated to pay a certain figure for third-party expenses in your lump sum payment to your ex, your former spouse will probably bear the cost of new expense increases.

In addition, if non-payment issues crop up, the third parties may come after you rather than your ex.

If the custodial parent's financial habits are cause for concern, you may want to speak with an experienced family law attorney to figure out your options.

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