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Can I Give My Child Extra Money Outside of Child Support?

The short answer is yes. Lawfully, parents can give their children extra money outside of child support. This money is considered a gift by the court. But there are many other legal nuances to consider when deciphering how the extra money can be accepted in a case by case situation.

We have gathered a few of those facts and factors to consider. 

The Fundamentals of Child Support

To more deeply understand the extra gifts that are given on top of child support, it may help to go through the basics of child support itself. 

First of all, child support laws vary from state to state, so it is imperative to meet with a family law attorney in yours who is well-versed in the complicated process of filing and paying for child support. Louisiana, for example, uses the income shares model to gauge child support, which comes with strict regulations and enforcement. 

Certain elements apply to child support procedures no matter where you are located in the United States, such as:

  • Custodial parent, referring to the parent who has primary custody of a child the majority of the time. 
  • Non-custodial parent, defined in general as a parent who does not have physical custody of a child, but may have legal custody. The non-custodial parent is responsible for paying child support. 

Because the ultimate mission of child support is for parents to split the financial obligations it takes to raise their children, the non-custodial typically makes regular payments to the custodial parents to cover the children’s basic needs. In other words, both parents will financially support their children, whether through physical custody or child support. The amount of child support is calculated based on both parents’ income, which carries different guidelines in each state.

The Uses of Child Support

As the name implies, the funds in child support are expected to be used to care for a child’s expenses, not for the custodial parent’s own expenses, like clothing, salon services, entertainment, or vacations. 

Child support is, however, intended to sustain children’s living and safety standards by making sure their basic needs are covered, which includes:

  • Shelter: monthly rental or mortgage payments, plus utilities.
  • Medical: Doctor’s or hospital visits, medications, and vision and dental care. (It is also common for one parent to cover children under their health insurance plan.)
  • School: Books and supplies, clothing, and field trips.
  • Around the House: Food and groceries, clothing, or furniture the children will use at home.
  • Extracurricular Activities: This covers the expenses needed for sports programs or any after-school clubs.

If the custodial parent has any child support money left over in a month, after using it to pay for these necessities, it should be saved for the children’s future or unexpected needs. Normally, the parameters of the child support expenses are defined in the court agreement beforehand for both parents to clearly understand their responsibilities and limits. 

The Extra Money Given Outside Child Support

If the non-custodial parent would like to give their children extra money outside of child support payments, the judge may consider this a gift that is not to be included within the realm of child support. 

The extra money could include: 

  • Giving the ex-spouse money for other items for additional expenses.
  • Giving the children money for toys, a trust fund, or extracurricular activities that could be considered acceptable child support needs. But, if not first cleared with the judge assigned to the case and the court system, it will not count as part of the child support plan that was originally agreed upon. 
  • Sometimes, if the ex-spouse or children request the money for these expenses outside the regular amount of child support payments, it is possible for the custodial parent to then reach out to the court to give the noncustodial parent credit for the money toward child support.

The Extra Payments Made Outside Child Support

Unless there is a special section in place in a child support agreement, extra payments are usually a gift. 

More specifically, even if the non-custodial parent has an excess of income and wants to make extra cash or direct deposit of funds for the ex-spouse or child, if the funding reasons are not technically part of their maintenance of basic care or upkeep, those payments outside of the court order are considered a gift. 

This is why it is so important for both parties involved in the divorce to discuss and agree on – through court proceedings from the beginning – the alternative methods of child support they would like to employ and include. This could be in the form of payments toward a trust, a savings account for college, or a home loan. Through proper legal documentation, these gift payments can be acknowledged as an alternative method of child support. 

The Lifeline of Child Support 

No matter if divorced parents are paying within or outside child support agreements, there are laws in place requiring how long these payments should be made, including:

  • The child is no longer a minor, which could change under special circumstances if the child is still in high school or has special needs.
  • Parental rights have been terminated because of adoption or other legalities.
  • The child is assigned to active duty in the military.
  • The child is legally emancipated by the court system.

Seek Legal Help with Gifts and Child Support

When a custodial parent receives an extra payment from a non-custodial spouse outside the legally agreed-upon child support payments, it is best to meet with a family law attorney to sift through the next steps moving forward.

Know that there is no obligation to pay over the court-ordered child support agreement, but sometimes these extra payments by an ex-spouse are voluntary. 

Either way, venturing outside the regular payments can be complicated and should involve a legal professional experienced in the best way to categorize the extra funds that is most advantageous for the future of all involved (parents and children): as a gift or credited toward child support. 

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