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Can My Child Support Payments Be Used for Christmas Presents?

Kid with gift

Child support payments can be a divisive issue for many ex-couples. Finances and money matters are often a challenging hurdle during the property division and negotiation phase of a divorce. If parties don’t reach an equitable solution where both feel represented, bad feelings can continue well beyond your final court date. The Christmas season can put a tremendous strain on your finances if you haven’t prepared for purchases. Some parents may be tempted to try to request their ex use child support payments for Christmas gifts. While this is entirely at the discretion of the receiving parent, child support payments are meant to provide for the daily needs of minor children. How a custodial parent chooses to use court-ordered payments varies, but the topic can strain a fragile co-parenting relationship. If you’re newly divorced, and this is all new to you, dealing with the strain of child support payments and associated parenting costs can be overwhelming.

Here are a few points to remember this holiday season:

  • Child Support Payments are Not a Gift: Whether it’s Christmas or birthday gifts, child support payments are not intended to be used to cover your share of any presents for your child. If your child has always celebrated their birthday or Christmas with gifts, it’s your responsibility to work out an arrangement with your co-parent outlining what you both are willing to spend on gifts for every occasion. It may seem like a minor issue, but these types of expenses can add up quickly if not budgeted.
  • Work as a Team When You Can: If gifts in your home during your marriage came from Santa, now is not the time to deviate from course. As your family transitions and learns to deal with the adjustments accompanying divorce, keeping traditions and customs in place can be tremendously comforting to your kids.
  • Be Honest About Your Goals: If you know you want to spend the holiday with your child, there’s no point in asking for everything else but what you want.

Avoiding Court and Custody Modification

If you and your co-parent can answer these questions, you can save yourself lots of headaches. Many couples find themselves in court trying to renegotiate their custody agreements to account for many of these types of holidays and additional financial questions. Working with an attorney early in your divorce process can ensure you are aware of these issues. It’s important to remember the court will not view gifts given in lieu of support as equivalent to a court-ordered payment.

Here are a few other issues to resolve before Christmas:

  • Will Christmas presents be split between houses?
  • Have your children outgrown Santa? Are you labeling all gifts or leaving them without a sender? It’s important to make these decisions and be consistent. If sustaining separate households has strained your budget, it may be better to present a united front.
  • Is the noncustodial parent invited to Christmas festivities if the holiday is not spent at their home? Parents of you

So, even if you and your spouse have an agreement, it’s not wise to skip any payments unless the agreement is written and included in your court order. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the divorce process from beginning to end. Assistance from an experienced divorce lawyer is critical in navigating through these types of issues in a divorce or custody proceeding.

Call us today at (215) 515-9901 to schedule a consultation or use our online contact form to request more information.