Many people believe that child support should only cover the child's basic necessities, such as food, shelter and clothing, but this is not the case. A consideration of the court when ordering child support is to ensure that the custodial parent can maintain for the child the same standard of living that the child experienced or would have experienced under the care of both parents. Because of this, child support covers much more than just the necessities.
The remainder of the standard child support payments can cover expenses such as child care, transportation and educational costs. The custodial parent may also use child support to pay for age-appropriate entertainment and extracurricular activities. Unless it is determined the custodial parent is not meeting the child's basic needs, however, the court does not require the parent to prove how he or she spent the funds.
Some parts of child support come in the form of payments for services, such as health insurance and major medical procedures that the insurance does not cover. Normally, the court will require the parent with better employer-provided health care benefits to provide the coverage for the child. For major health-related expenses, especially for a child with special medical needs, the court may require the parents to each pay a portion of the cost.
When the court calculates child support, it considers both parents' financial and work situations at the time along with any additional expenses that the custodial parent might incur while raising the child. An attorney could assist either parent by explaining what factors the court will consider and how the court will calculate the payments. The attorney may also be able to present additional information that the parent may not have considered that could affect the amount of the payments.
Source: Findlaw, "What Does Child Support Cover?", December 24, 2014